A group of Canadian researchers and journalists have built the world’s first fully-indexed and searchable online database of Edward Snowden’s leaked National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance documents. The team behind the Snowden Surveillance Archive hopes the database will help the public use Snowden’s revelations to become more aware of how governments are spying on citizens.
The Snowden archive currently has 386 files, including the NSA’s classified documents, glossaries of the codenames used by the agency and news stories related to the leaks. The database is still a small fraction of the nearly 50,000 documents Snowden gave to journalist Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras in 2013.
The project came together through the dual efforts of the Surveillance Project at the University of Toronto and Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). The idea was sparked by a University of Toronto student who became frustrated by the difficulty of hunting for bits and pieces of the leaked files that were scattered around the Internet, according to the CBC.
The documents include revelations about spying from the NSA and U.K.’s GCHQ as well as the other three members of the Five Eyes alliance, including Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The group hopes to help people better understand the “scope, intimate reach and profound implications of the global surveillance infrastructures and practices” revealed by Snowden’s leaks.
Former NSA contractor Snowden went into hiding after leaking documents in 2013. It was revealed that the NSA and GCHQ were spying on the Internet communications of millions of people around the globe, monitoring phone calls and tapping the lines of foreign politicians.
People can search the archive using the codenames of surveillance projects, like PRISM; the type of surveillance being conducted; or the spy agency behind it. The full text of Snowden’s leaked documents is also searchable.
"What we're hoping this database can do is start to piece together the bigger picture," Laura Tribe, CJFE national and digital programs lead, told the CBC. "We tried to make this the most robust, searchable database possible so that no matter what you're looking for, you can find the content.”