Since Edward Snowden first stunned the world by lifting the lid on the NSA’s PRISM spying campaign, we’ve seen no end of leaks about the different ways it’s been gathering intelligence on the world’s internet users. Most of these revelations have been made via news organizations like The Guardian, and those who’ve been following the story will agree it’s pretty hard to keep track of everything that’s going on.
Now though, it’s suddenly become a whole lot easier to search through the mass of documents leaked by Snowden, thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has gathered them all up and posted them online. It’s just launched its NSA Document Database, an online hoard of some 200+, easily-searchable documents that have been leaked by Snowden and his partners since last year.
The ACLU’s Emily Weinrebe announced the database in a blog post:
“The fact is that most of the documents contained in this database should have never been secret in the first place. Now, with newfound access to these records, we can educate ourselves about the true nature and scope of government surveillance in its many forms. This database will serve as a critical tool with which we will hold our government accountable.”
With the Snowden leaks likely to continue, the ACLU is promising to continually update the database as more documents are made available. The documents posted so far can be searched according to title, category and content, and all have been made ‘text-searchable’, which means you can search for the phrase “Turbine” to locate documents referring to the NSA’s secret mass hacking program, for example. According to the ACLU, the database will serve as an important tool for journalists, researchers, students and the general public alike.
When Snowden first lifted the lid on the NSA’s spying operations, he precipitated a long-running debate about the legitimacy of the US government’s collection of data on citizens, and whether this is really necessary. Privacy advocates have since won some (minor) victories against the US government, with President Obama recently announcing ‘reforms’ that’ll see the NSA barred from collecting phone call metadata on US citizens. Even so, the vast majority of the NSA’s data gathering operations continue unimpeded, whilst Snowden himself remains trapped in Russia on temporary asylum.
Last December, the ACLU’s Executive Director Anthony Romero came out in support of Snowden, penning a blog post in which he labeled him as a “patriot” for the sacrifices he made:
“As a whistleblower of illegal government activity that was sanctioned and kept secret by the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government for years, he undertook great personal risk for the public good,” wrote Romero.