The National Security Agency has a problem with the American public. Well, not just one problem, considering the PR disaster for them the Snowden leaks have created. But one they're grappling with now: how to keep up with turning down the thousands and thousands of requests from citizens to discover if they've been spied on.
Americans are inundating the NSA with open-records requests, leading to an 888% increase in such inquiries in the past fiscal year. Anyone asking is getting a standard pre-written letter saying the NSA can neither confirm nor deny that any information has been gathered.Why it's so difficult and takes so long to send a form letter saying, in effect, go pound sand isn't at all clear. But maybe they should just make it easy on themselves. They've got everyone's email addresses and phone numbers. They could just pop and email or text message to deliver the bad news. Or maybe they could save some time by not collecting the data from absolutely everyone and just focus on the bad guys. That should free up some staff.
"This was the largest spike we've ever had," said Pamela Phillips, the chief of the NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office, which handles all records requests to the agency. "We've had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their e-mail addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that." [...]
Her 19-person staff is grappling to deal with the boom in requests, she said. More than 900 are still pending, although the NSA tries to get back to people in the 20 days required by law, she said.
Sometimes it can take months, even years, to get a response.