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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Electronic Surveillance and the National Security Agency: From Shamrock to Snowden

About this Collection

The document set will be the most comprehensive collection of materials publicly available on this controversial subject. It will include the full set of documents disclosed by Edward Snowden and assorted publications as well as the documents produced or released in response to those disclosures – by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Security Agency, congressional offices and other U.S. and foreign government organizations. The documentary record will, however, also provide historical context, going back to electronic surveillance activities and controversies of much earlier years – SHAMROCK (telegram collection), MINARET (the watch list), wireless wiretapping, ECHELON (satellite communications intercept), and USSID 18 (retention of information on U.S. persons). Documents from the U.S. and foreign governments will be obtained via the Internet as well as from archival research and Freedom of Information Act requests.

Research Value of the Collection

U.S. intelligence activities, which cost well over $50 billion a year, also have significant implications for national security and foreign relations — particularly in an era when the threat from terrorism has grown. Within those activities, U.S. electronic surveillance — domestic and foreign — costs a substantial portion of those billions.

Aside from the cost, those activities — as further revealed by the Snowden disclosures — have significant implications for civil liberties and privacy, the ability to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, and the monitoring of foreign governments. The documentation also provides valuable new information on one key, often obscured, aspect of foreign relations — the liaison relationships between U.S. intelligence organizations (in this case, the NSA) and their foreign counterparts. In addition, the foreign reaction to many of the disclosures has illustrated the consequences that can follow the exposure of intelligence operations — particularly those targeted on allied nations.

Incorporating records from all the major sources of documentation concerning U.S. electronic surveillance — the media publications that posted the Snowden documents, official releases from the executive branch (including press releases and declassified documents) and Congress (including legislation, member's press releases, and testimony), websites, and the Freedom of Information Act — significantly eases the task of searching for documentation.

Thus, the documents will be of great relevance to scholars in a variety of fields, including those covering the study of:

  • U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities and activities
  • legal issues concerning electronic surveillance
  • computer network exploitation and cybersecurity
  • intelligence liaison
  • foreign SIGINT Activities
  • U.S. foreign relations
  • security studies
  • international relations
  • U.S. policy making
  • the Ford, George W. Bush, and Obama presidencies

Edward Snowden

Operation Shamrock


Metadata Collection

National Security Agency