The NSA released that email shortly after Snowden said in an interview with NBC host Brian Williams that the agency had copies of emails from Snowden “raising concerns about the NSA's interpretations of its legal authorities.”
The NSA made it sound like Snowden was lying in his interview, writing at the time: “We have searched for additional indications of outreach from him in those areas and to date have not discovered any engagements related to his claims.”
But now, thanks to former Reuters deputy social media editor Matthew Keys, it appears the NSA does have emails from Snowden, they just don’t want to hand them over.
In response to Keys' Freedom of Information Act request regarding e-mails from Snowden to “any and all NSA officials, including officials at the office of general counsel” between January 1 and June 1, 2013, the NSA claimed the emails were exempt from FOIA disclosure.
Part of the reason these emails were exempt, according to FOIA official Pamela Phillips, was that they included “records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes.”
“This includes information that, if released, could interfere with enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources, or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures,” Phillips wrote.
Another reason the e-mails were exempt was “to protect certain information concerning [the NSA’s] activities, as well as the names of its employees.”
Oh, and some of the e-mails were exempt because their “disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”
Phillips did provide Keys with one email that wasn’t protected. It was – you guessed it – the email the NSA released following Snowden’s interview.
At the end of the FOIA response, Phillips does tell Keys “there are no e-mails indicating that Mr. Snowden contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs.”
Looks like we’ll just have to take the NSA’s word for it. Well, unless Snowden saved those emails somewhere.