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22 March 2014

Snowden Long Drip Pie Charts

At current release rate of Snowden pages/files it will take about 30 years for 58,000 (Guardian file number), or 970 years for 1,700,000 (DoD file number).

Snowden’s leaked NSA trove yields its secrets only slowly

The articles are just the most recent in the long drip of NSA revelations. The string dates back to early June, when Britain’s Guardian newspaper and The Post began breaking story after story based on documents leaked weeks earlier by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former government contractor.

Why, given that Snowden’s leak occurred about 10 months ago, are revelations still emerging?

The short answer, according to the journalists behind the articles, is that the documents don’t give up the NSA’s secrets clearly or cleanly. Their technical, and often cryptic, references to NSA programs require painstaking reporting and consultations with national-security and technical experts to unravel.

“It takes a long time to go through tens of thousands of complex surveillance documents,” said Glenn Greenwald, who has written dozens of stories about the NSA since last year, mostly for the Guardian and lately for the Intercept, a start-up backed by First Look Media. “It takes an even longer time to process and understand them sufficiently to report them accurately and to make informed decisions about what should be disclosed in accordance with our agreement with our source,” who is Snowden.

Martin Baron, The Post’s executive editor, said the Snowden documents are filled with “hints and clues and fragments. These are pieces of a puzzle that you have to put together,” a time-consuming process.

The documents, for example, use cover names, abbreviations and operational concepts familiar to government security officials — their intended readers — but not to the average reader or journalist, said Barton Gellman, The Post’s principal reporter on the story.

“A bunch of them require a foundation in computer science or network technologies,” Gellman said. “The documents we’ve published required a lot of annotation for general readers, and we chose them because they were among the clearest.”

Greenwald and Gellman declined to reveal many details about their reporting methods. Neither would disclose how many pages of documents Snowden turned over to them and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras last year before fleeing the United States. Snowden now resides in Moscow under temporary asylum from the Russian government.


Pie charts data source:

Snowden Long Drip Pie Charts

Long drip of pages through 22 March 2014.


Long drip compared to Guardian claim of 58,000 Snowden files (not pages).


Long drip compared to DoD claim of 1,700,000 Snowden files (not pages).