Snowden emails withheld due to US govt concerns about 'invasion of personal privacy'

The public disclosure of emails by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, could be an "unwarranted invasion of personal privacy", according to a letter fro the US Department of State responding to a FOIA request by online publication, The Desk.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

The United States' Department of State Freedom of Information Act has said that the public disclosure of emails by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, during his time with the agency, "could cause an unwarranted invasion of persdonal private", according to a report on The Desk website.

letter dated 1 July by chief FOIA officer, Pamela Phillips, responding to a FOIA request by Matthew Keys of The Desk, said that:

"Records pertaining to Mr. Snowden are withheld pursuant to the seventh exemption of the FOIA ... which protects from disclosure 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," said Phillips in the letter.

Some of the withheld information, according to the letter, was also found to be currently classified because it is deemed "top secret", "secret", and "confidential" under Executive Order 13526.

The FOIA request submitted by Keys for The Desk was for, "all emails sent by Edward Snowden using the email address ejsnowd@nsa.ic.gov to any and all NSA officials, including officials as the Office of General Counsel, for the time period between January 1, 2013 and June 1, 2013".

According to Keys, the letter represents the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged its retention of employment records and communication related to Snowden's period as a contractor.

Although the FOIA request by The Desk did not mention records related to Snowden's claim that he raised concerns about the legality of the NSA's surveillance programs, such as the far-reaching PRISM program, Phillips' response said: "For your information, there are no emails indicating that Mr. Snowden contacted agency officials to raise concerns about NSA programs."

In May, the US government released an email by Snowden in a bid to debunk his claim during a televised interview in May that he had gone through official channels to question the legality of the NSA's surveillance programs.

The former NSA contractor, who is exiled in Russia, talked about a specific email he had written to the NSA general counsel's office detailing his concerns. The agency responded by releasing what it said was the only such communication found in the archives from Snowden, and indicated it did not prove the his claim.

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