National Security Agency

From Ballotpedia
Jump to: navigation, search
National Security Agency
National Security Agency.svg
Director:Michael S. Rogers
Deputy Director:Richard H. Ledgett Jr.
Annual budget:$10.8 billion (2013)
Total employed:14,950 (2013)
Year created:1952
Official website:Office website
The National Security Agency (NSA) is a United States executive agency formed in 1952 as the lead cryptology agency charged with obtaining digital information about security threats and protecting digital national security information.[1][2] The current director is Michael S. Rogers, who was confirmed to the post on March 31, 2014.[3] The NSA is a part of the U.S. Department of Defense and is a partner agency to the Central Security Service (CSS). The CSS was created in order to maintain a synchronized flow of information to both the U.S. armed forces and the federal officials to whom the NSA reports. The director of the NSA also serves as the chief of the CSS.[4]

The number of employees in the NSA is classified, but according the Black Budget, the top secret budget of the U.S. intelligence agencies, the NSA employed 14,950 military personnel in 2013 with a budget of $10.8 billion.[5] There are three main operational components. Information Assurance (IA) is charged with protecting important national security information. Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) is responsible for collecting, processing and disseminating foreign signals intelligence, and Computer Network Operations (CNO) prepares the agency for possible network warfare with cyberterrorism organizations.[1]


The origins of the NSA lie with early military cryptology in World War I. Within the U.S. Army, the Cipher Bureau was created to assist in the security of U.S. military communications. During World War II the U.S. Army and Navy communications intelligence branches expanded due to successes in uncovering military secrets of the Axis alliance. The National Security Act of 1947 brought centralization to the intelligence community by forming the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Council. The Army and Navy's cryptology agencies were combined into the Armed Forces Security Agency, the predecessor to the NSA, in 1949.[6]

The NSA was officially established on November 4, 1952, by President Harry Truman.[2] The agency was a federal secret until Congress revealed it in 1975. It was originally established solely to monitor foreign communications, but in the 1970s, it was revealed that the NSA maintained lists of people to monitor, including U.S. citizens with anti-war views and unfavorable foreign connections. Sen. Frank Church (D-ID)led the Church Senate hearings that led to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required warrants from a FISA court in order to conduct surveillance within the United States.[7]

The Church Hearings were aimed at the NSA's surveilling of opponents of the Vietnam War, a list including Martin Luther King, Jr., Muhammad Ali, then-Senators Church and Howard Baker (R-TN), other civil rights figures and prominent journalists, in an operation called Minaret. There was no judicial oversight for the secretive agency prior to the passage of FISA. Between 1967 and 1973, about 1,650 people were watched by the agency during the Minaret operation, which was intended to track drug traffickers and terrorism suspects. Other early operations of the NSA included early warnings of what would become the Cuban Missile Crisis and knowledge of the East German Communist Party wanting to end foot traffic between East and West Berlin, an idea that led to the construction of the Berlin Wall.[8]

In the late 1990s, the NSA developed a program called ThinThread that would allow the mass collection of data in order to handle threats during millennial celebrations. The program was able to sort through phone and email information without warrants, track efficiency and misuse of private information and analyze data collected to identify potential threats, but only the data analysis aspect of ThinThread went into effect.[9]

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, President George W. Bush allowed the NSA to conduct wiretapping on terrorist activities without receiving approval from FISA courts. The administration notified both congressional leaders and the FISA court judge in charge of national security issues, and the New York Times was asked by the administration not to publish the article describing the surveillance program.[10] Section 215 of the Patriot Act allowed intelligence agencies to seize "any tangible things" regarding an investigation into national security threats by going through a secret court and removed the requirement that the subject had to be a suspected terrorist or spy.[11]

On June 9, 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed himself as the individual who leaked information that the NSA conducted an operation called Prism which allowed the collection of digital information of communications companies in the United States, such as Facebook, Google, Apple and Verizon.[12][13][14] Snowden arranged a meeting in Hong Kong in order to avoid immediate detainment for disclosing classified information, but an criminal complaint was issued in May 2013 on Snowden under the 1917 Espionage Act, only the seventh person to be indicted under the act.[13][15] Snowden left Hong Kong for Russia and was eventually granted asylum for one year with the ability to extend his asylum on a year-to-year basis on August 1, 2013.[16]



According to its official website, the NSA's mission statement is as follows:

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) leads the U.S. Government in cryptology that encompasses both Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) products and services, and enables Computer Network Operations (CNO) in order to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances.[17]


The NSA claims five goals in carrying out its mission.

GOAL 1: Succeeding in Today's Operations - Enable wise policymaking, effective national security action, and U.S. freedom of action in cyberspace by exploiting foreign use of electronic signals and systems and securing information systems used by the U.S. and its allies, while protecting privacy and civil liberties.

GOAL 2: Preparing for the Future - Deliver next generation capabilities and solutions that meet the challenges of tomorrow and drive solutions from invention to operation in support of national security and U.S. Government missions.

GOAL 3: Enhancing and Leading an Expert Workforce - Attract, develop and engage an exceptional, diverse workforce prepared to overcome our cryptologic challenges.

GOAL 4: Implementing Best Business Practices - Provide timely data to inform optimal strategic and tactical investment decisions while ensuring organizational accountability for executing those decisions and realizing the associated performance improvement.

GOAL 5: Manifesting Principled Performance - Accomplishing our missions with a commitment to a principled and steadfast approach to performance through compliance, lawfulness, and protection of public trust must be paramount.[17]


The agency also claims nine "core values" to adhere to in carrying out its mission.

  • Lawfulness – We will adhere to the spirit and the letter of the Constitution and the laws and regulations of the United States.
  • Honesty – We will be truthful with each other, and honor the public's need for openness, balanced against national security interests.
  • Integrity – We will behave honorably and apply good judgment as we would if our activities were under intense public scrutiny.
  • Fairness – We will ensure equal opportunity and fairness in Agency policies, programs, and practices.
  • Accountability – We will be accountable for our actions and take responsibility for our decisions, practicing wise stewardship of public resources and placing prudent judgment over expediency.
  • Loyalty – We will be loyal to the nation, the mission, and each other, weighing ideas solely on the merits and ensuring that decisions enjoy vigorous debate while being made, followed by unified implementation.
  • Collaboration – We will cooperate with others in a respectful and open-minded manner, to our mutual success.
  • Innovation – We will seek new ways to accomplish our mission, planning for the future based on what we've learned from the past, and thinking ahead to the best of our ability to avoid unintended consequences.
  • Learning – We will acquire and transfer knowledge, provide the resources and training necessary for our people to remain at the forefront of technology, and individually pursue continuous learning.[17]



The current director of the NSA is Michael S. Rogers, who is also commander of U.S. Cyber Command and the chief of the Central Security Service.[3]

Note: Votes marked "N/A" represent voice votes or unrecorded votes. Missing votes will be filled as they are researched.


Information Assurance

The Information Assurance Directorate (IAD) was formed by National Security Directive 42 in order to effectively defend critical national security information.[19] In order to assure the security of the nation's digital information, the Information Assurance division partners with the Defense Department, Director of National Intelligence, other federal departments and agencies, foreign entities including NATO, academic institutions for training and knowledge, as well as commercial industries.[20]

Signals Intelligence

The Signals Intelligence division (SIGINT) tracks foreign communications and weapons systems and radars in order to provide information on "foreign adversaries' capabilities, actions, and intentions." SIGINT collects intelligence based on needs by executive branch officials and other federal officials with official need for the intelligence.[21]


USA Freedom Act

A group of senators wrote the USA Freedom Act, which was expected to garner widespread support in ending much of the NSA's ability to collect large amounts of phone call data. The House passed a similar bill in May 2014, but the language was deemed too ambiguous for the Senate to pass it into law. President Barack Obama asked for the creation of such a bill in January 2014. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) who claimed credit for the bill, stated, "We are very close to finalizing an agreement that incorporates the input of the administration, the privacy community, and the technology industry."[22]

Prism operation disclosure

In a classified presentation provided to The Guardian by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, it was made public that the NSA had been collecting information from top tech companies about U.S. citizens starting in 2007. Tech companies implicated in the Prism program began with Microsoft in 2007, followed by Yahoo (2008), Google (2009), Facebook (2009), PalTalk (2009), YouTube (2010), Skype (2011), AOL (2011) and Apple (2012). Prism gave the intelligence agency a direct connection to the servers of the companies, allowing the agency to gain information about email, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, logins and social networking details. Instead of requiring FISA courts' permissions to acquire each piece of information, the agency is permitted to investigate anyone as long as it has reasonable suspicion. When asked about the NSA program, American Civil Liberties Union Director Jameel Jaffer stated, "It's shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this. The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications."[12]

The data collected by the NSA not only included the information from tech companies but communications companies such as Verizon, AT&T and Sprint. The information collected from cellular companies not only include the metadata collected but also the content of phone calls under the Prism program. The information collection was first allowed by the Bush administration and then renewed under the Obama administration in 2012 under the Patriot Act.[23] According to a September 17, 2013 release by the FISA court, no telecommunications companies have challenged the demand of the NSA to disclose records.[24]

Snowden was indicted on two charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 on June 21, 2013, but he sought asylum in Russia. His asylum was granted on August 1, 2013, for one year.[13][15][16]

Recent news

This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the term National + Security + Agency

All stories may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of the search engine.

National Security Agency News Feed

  • Loading...

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 National Security Agency, "Mission," accessed April 28, 2014
  2. 2.0 2.1 Washington Post, "A history of the NSA," accessed April 28, 2014
  3. 3.0 3.1 National Security Agency, "Rogers confirmed to take helm of USCYBERCOM, NSA/CSS," April 1, 2014
  4. National Security Agency, "Central Security Service (CSS)," accessed April 28, 2014
  5. Washington Post, "The Black Budget," August 29, 2013
  6. National Security Agency, "The Origins of NSA," accessed April 29, 2014
  7. The Guardian, "The National Security Agency: surveillance giant with eyes on America," June 6, 2013
  8. The Guardian, "Declassified NSA files show agency spied on Muhammad Ali and MLK," September 26, 2013
  9. Baltimore Sun, "NSA rejected system that sifted phone data legally," May 18, 2006
  10. New York Times, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," December 15, 2005
  11. National Public Radio, "Section of Patriot Act Allowing NSA Program Is Use To Debate," June 6, 2013
  12. 12.0 12.1 The Guardian, "NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others," June 6, 2013
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Washington Post, "U.S. charges Snowden with espionage," June 21, 2013
  14. The Guardian, "Fisa court: no telecoms companay has ever challenged phone records orders," September 17, 2013
  15. 15.0 15.1 U.S. News and World Report, "June 21, 2013
  16. 16.0 16.1 L.A. Times, "Edward Snowden granted asylum, leaves Moscow airport in taxi," August 1, 2013
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 National Security Agency, "NSA/CSS Strategy," accessed April 28, 2014
  19. National Security Agency, "About IA at NSA," accessed April 30, 2014
  20. National Security Agency, "Information Assurance Partners," accessed April 29, 2014
  21. National Security Agency, "Signals Intelligence," accessed April 29, 2014
  22. The Washington Post, "White House, senators near deal on surveillance reform," July 23, 2014
  23. The Guardian, "NSA spying scandal: what we have learned," June 10, 2013
  24. The Guardian, "Fisa court:no telecoms company has ever challenged phone records orders," September 17, 2013