Blog of Rights

Privacy & Security

Introducing the ACLU's NSA Documents Database

By Emily Weinrebe, ACLU National Security Project at 9:55am

The public debate over our government's surveillance programs has reached remarkable heights since the first set of NSA disclosures in June 2013 based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Since then, additional disclosures by both the press and government have illuminated our government's vast and invasive surveillance apparatus. These documents stand as primary source evidence of our government's interpretation of its authority to engage in sweeping surveillance activities at home and abroad, and how it carries out that surveillance. The ACLU hopes to facilitate this debate by making these documents more easily accessible and understandable. Toward that end, today we are launching the NSA Documents Database.

This tool will be an up-to-date, complete collection of previously secret NSA documents made public since last June. The database is designed to be easily searchable – by title, category, or content – so that the public, researchers, and journalists can readily home in on the information they are looking for.

We have made all of the documents text-searchable to allow users to investigate particular key words or phrases. Alternatively, the filter function allows users to sort based on the type of surveillance involved, the specific legal authorities implicated, the purpose of the surveillance, or the source of the disclosure. For example, you can have the database return all documents that both pertain to "Section 215" and "Internal NSA/DOJ Legal Analysis." We will update the database with new documents as they become available to the public.

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.

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