Edward Snowden’s archive of secret NSA documents opens wider

A look at the NSA's internal newsletters.

Back in 2013, former NSA contractor copied and shared a massive cache of classified government documents with Glenn Greenwald, then a journalist with The Guardian. The two met in Hong Kong to go over the massive data leak that would later shatter any perception Internet users had of online privacy, though the revelations weren't without terms. Greenwald agreed to two conditions. The first was that he would release the secret documents with careful reporting that's easy for the general public to digest and without taking tidbits out of context, and the second was to ensure the safety and reputation of innocent people caught up in the crossfire.

What followed were a series of articles detailing the extent of the U.S. government's spying program, along with that of partnering nations. It sparked a debate on privacy versus homeland security and government overreach, but it was only a fraction of what Snowden had presented to Greenwald. Now three years later, Greenwald is publishing large batches of the NSA's internal SIDtoday newsletters through The Intercept, an online media outlet of which he is a founding editor.

The newsletters span more than a decade beginning after 9/11, starting with the oldest SIDtoday articles from 2003. There are 166 documents to digest in the first release, some more interesting than others, and there will be plenty more to follow. Greenwald plans to periodically release batches until he's made public the entire set from 2003 to 2012.

According to The Intercept, the newsletters pertain to the NSA's most important division, the Signals Intelligence Directorate. Among the documents, the agency's spies detail a "surprising amount about what they were doing, how they were doing it, and why." There's also plenty of mundane entries, as you might expect in such a large archive.

"The SIDtoday documents run a wide gamut: from serious, detailed reports on top secret NSA surveillance programs to breezy, trivial meanderings of analysts’ trips and vacations, with much in between," Greenwald explains. "Many are self-serving and boastful, designed to justify budgets or impress supervisors. Others contain obvious errors or mindless parroting of public source material. But some SIDtoday articles have been the basis of significant revelations from the archive."

We'll be keeping an eye on this to see if anything develops. In the meantime, if you want to read the first batch of newsletters, you'll find the documents on a special section of The Intercept. The releases also contain summaries of the content, which are typically just one or two sentences long. That makes it easy to whip through them all.

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