NSA Claims It Is Unable to Search its Own Emails Due to Having an “Antiquated” System

Thursday, July 25, 2013
NSA Headquarters (photo: Charles Dharapak, AP)

It can vacuum up emails, phone calls, text messages from all over the country and the globe, and sift through mountains of metadata looking for signs of terrorists plots. But the National Security Agency (NSA) can’t conduct a common search of its own emails.


This according to Justin Elliott at ProPublica, who filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the spy agency to obtain copies of emails between NSA employees and those working for the National Geographic Channel to learn more about the agency’s public relations efforts following a friendly documentary on the NSA aired by the cable operation.


Elliott was told by an NSA official that they couldn’t complete his request because their email system is too “antiquated and archaic” to perform bulk searches.


“There’s no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately,” NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told Elliott.


The kind of email search necessitated by Elliott’s request is performed all the time by large corporations facing lawsuits. But, somehow, the most powerful intelligence-gathering operation in the U.S. government can’t do the same thing.


“It’s just baffling,” Mark Caramanica of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told ProPublica. “This is an agency that’s charged with monitoring millions of communications globally and they can’t even track their own internal communications in response to a FOIA request.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

NSA Says It Can’t Search Its Own Emails (by Justin Elliott, ProPublica)

NSA Claims Inability to Search Agency's Own Emails (RT)

Majority of Americans Disapprove of NSA Surveillance Operations (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)         

NSA and FBI Secretly Mining Data from Internet Service Providers (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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