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The NSA just released one boring email from Edward Snowden

Proof at last that during his time working for the NSA, he sent at least one question about how the legal process worked.


Kevin Collier


Posted on May 29, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 5:40 am CDT

The National Security Agency has responded former systems analyst Edward Snowden‘s claims that he tried to email his superiors of his concerns about the agency.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)—which oversees the NSA, as well as the U.S.’s other spy agencies—published a single old, boring email from Snowden to its Tumblr on Thursday afternoon.

In an interview with NBC Nightly News that aired Wednesday evening, Snowden said in no uncertain terms that his attempts to talk with superiors were met with both surprise at the NSA’s power and warnings that he’d face repercussions if he was a squeaky wheel.

“Individuals who had never seen these tools were shocked,” he told interviewer Brian Williams. “People who had seen it were worried about it, they said you’re right that we shouldn’t be doing this. But they also said, ‘If you say something about this, they will destroy you. Don’t you know what happens to people like that?'”

According to the ODNI, this was the only instance the NSA had on record of Snowden emailing concerns of legality to superiors. (Insert joke about the NSA collecting lots of information without the capability to effectively analyze it here.) The email was sent April 5, 2013, while Snowden was taking a training course. At the time, the NSA responded to the email with a legal explanation, which the ODNI says received no followup.

The question, if you’re curious, is whether a president’s Executive Order has the same legal standing as a law that passes through Congress, and doesn’t appear to directly reference a potentially illegal NSA program. The answer: Sort of, but give us a call to explain further.

The Daily Dot wasn’t able to immediately get a follow-up response from Snowden, who is currently in Russia. If forced to speculate, we guess Snowden’s likely response would be that he was referencing raising concerns at a different time.

See the full email below:

Snowden e-mail released by NSA

Illustration by Jason Reed

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*First Published: May 29, 2014, 3:37 pm CDT