With the Wikimedia Foundation set to sue the NSA for its pervasive surveillance programmes, Edward Snowden’s revelations are back in the media spotlight.
In 2013, the former NSA contractor shocked the world by revealing the extent to which the US government is spying on its own citizens and indeed, people all over the world. Aided by investigative journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras, the documents that Snowden released have made the public re-think their position on privacy and national security.
While the Snowden files have previously been made available via Greenwald’s personal website and the American Civil Liberties Union, now a University of Toronto graduate, George Raine, has created the Snowden Surveillance Archive to allow you to search all the documents released so far.
“This archive is a complete collection of all documents that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked in June 2013 to journalists Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, and subsequently were published by news media, such as The Guardian, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Mundo and The Intercept,” the archive reads. “The leaked documents and their coverage have raised significant public concerns and had a major impact on intelligence policy debates internationally over issues of freedom of expression, privacy, national security and democratic governance more broadly.”
The archive is made up of approximately 400 documents, including files subsequently published by the US government to help individuals understand some of the leaked information. Given that Snowden was in possession of more than 50,000 files, there are plenty of revelations and stories yet to come regarding NSA surveillance.
For now, however, interested parties can use the search software in order to trawl through the documents and we’ve provided a run-down of how to do just that below.
Searching through the Snowden documents
1. Go to the Snowden Surveillance Archive
2. Click on the link to enter the archive, also provided here
3. Click search, which takes you to a page offering numerous options
4. Users can then search by text, creating agency, classification, reporter, publisher, distribution, communications target, description, subject and keyword or all of those previously mentioned.
5.Once the user has specified their search criteria, click “Go”
6. If any matches have been found, the user should then be presented with a list of documents relevant to their search query
7. You can then click on the document’s title in order to find out more information such as a brief summary and contextual information
8. Alternatively if you click on “Document Source,” you will see the full content of the leaked file, minus any redactions that were implemented prior to the document’s publication
9. Aside from the search method listed above, you can also use the various navigation tabs to a view a breakdown of the documents by date, publishing source, etc
Apart from mere curiosity, the leaked Snowden documents are important because they enable members of the public to gain a better insight into the precise nature and extent of state surveillance programmes, not just in the US, but also in the other “Five Eyes” nations including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the UK.
The Snowden Archive has been compiled using open source software as part of a collaboration between Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Politics of Surveillance Project at the Faculty of Information at the University of Toronto. While not all of the documents can be said to include profound information, they do provide evidence of the sheer scale of the threat facing our individual liberty.