Date of Award

Spring 5-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program




Major Professor

Vern Baxter

Second Advisor

Pam Jenkins

Third Advisor

Salmon Shomade


Surveillance studies suffer from a near-total lack of empirical data, partially due to the highly secretive nature of surveillance programs. However, documents leaked by Edward Snowden in June of 2013 provided unprecedented proof of top-secret American data mining initiatives that covertly monitor electronic communications, collect, and store previously unfathomable quantities of data. These documents presented an ideal opportunity for testing theory against data to better understand contemporary surveillance. This qualitative content analysis compared themes of technology, privacy, national security, and legality in the NSA documents to those found in sets of publicly available government reports, laws, and guidelines, finding inconsistencies in the portrayal of governmental commitments to privacy, transparency, and civil liberties. These inconsistencies are best explained by the risk society theoretical model, which predicts that surveillance is an attempt to prevent risk in globalized and complex contemporary societies.


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