The National Security Agency had a 988 percent increase in open records requests by the end of fiscal year 2013. But the agency is refusing to release any information or even acknowledge that it collects personal data on American citizens.
The spike in requests followed the public disclosure of information stolen by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden regarding the NSA's phone and Internet data collection programs on Americans.
The NSA is responding to the inquiries with a form letter, but all it says it that the agency neither confirms nor denies that they have gathered any information on U.S. citizens, USA Today reports.
"This was the largest spike we've ever had," said Pamela Phillips, NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office chief, told the newspaper. "We've had requests from individuals who want any records we have on their phone calls, their phone numbers, their email addresses, their IP addresses, anything like that."
The number of requests in fiscal 2013 rose from about 250 in both the first and second quarters to 2,538 by Oct. 1.
One of those who sought information about himself is Joel Watts, 35, of Charleston, West Virginia. Watts told USA Today the NSA's refusal to give him any information is "a sign of disrespect to American citizens and the democratic process."
While he understands that secrecy is necessary in tracking terrorists, he said he "should have the right to know if I'm being surveyed if there's no criminal procedures in process."
The NSA's Phillips said she understands that people get frustrated and upset with the agency's refusal to meet their requests. "But that's the only response we're able to provide them on that topic," she said.
Nate Jones, a Freedom of Information Act request coordinator with the non-profit National Security Archive, said the NSA's refusal to fulfill request for information confirms that "leaks work."
"They don't release anything through normal means," he said. "The only way the public really learns about them is through leaks."
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