Edward Snowden
"The world owes Edward Snowden a great debt for blowing the whistle, and today's decision is a vindication of his actions" - Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International Getty

A team of Canadian journalists and political researchers have teamed up to create the world's first fully indexed and searchable online database of Edward Snowden's NSA surveillance revelations.

The Snowden Archive is the brainchild of the Politics of Surveillance Project at University of Toronto's faculty of information and the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), which hopes the archive can help the public to understand which governments are spying on them.

"What we're hoping this database can do is start to piece together the bigger picture. Seeing things like the stories coming out of the US, a lot of the time it's easy for us to think it's not us," Laura Tribe, CJFE's national and digital programs lead told Canada's CBC News.

"These tools and technologies exist and they're being used... until we have some transparency about what is happening and how these processes work in Canada, we can't be certain that they're not happening here."

Snowden was a former security contractor for the US government who went into hiding in 2013 after leaking multiple documents about NSA surveillance.

The information from the documents revealed that the NSA and its UK cousin GCHQ had been spying on the internet communications of millions of people around the world, as well as monitoring phone conversations in the US and tapping the phones of foreign politicians.

Snowden is currently in exile in Russia, but his lawyer says he is willing to return to the US if he can be assured of getting a fair trial.

The database currently contains 386 files, including leaked classified documents from the NSA, related news stories by the likes of The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and the New York Times, as well as contextual glossaries of code names to help users understand the references in the files.

However, this is only a fraction of the estimated 50,000 documents that Snowden handed over to The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald and filmmaker Laura Poitras in April 2013.

The documents relate not just to NSA and GCHQ spying revelations, but also to the surveillance programmes run by all the members of the Five Eyes alliance – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, US, and UK.

"We tried to make this the most robust, searchable database possible so that no matter what you're looking for, you can find the content," said Tribe.

On Sunday, 22 February, 2015, the documentary Citizenfour, which follows Greenwald and the filmmaker Laura Poitras' encounters with NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden, was honoured at the Oscars with the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.