The Privacy Surgeon has acquired a confidential internal memo which has been sent to all new staff and contractors of the NSA. The document sheds a sobering light on the Agency’s attitudes.
National Security Agency, HQ
To all new operational staff
From Command D4
This memo is intended to ensure that all new staff and contractors of the National Security Agency (the Agency) are fully briefed on key policy and operational aspects of our day to day work. You will have the opportunity to further explore each of these elements in the weekly breakfast briefing that takes place on Tuesdays at 8AM in the Bamford room on the ground floor in Maryland. Make sure to bring your own food, based on the cuisine of our primary target country for that week.
Please understand that in matters of national security there is no “bad” or “good”. There is only “politically sustainable” and “politically unsustainable”.
It’s true that the Agency has taken a PR hammering over the past year, which is why we’ve spent a lot of marketing money to build an image of “cool”. You’ll have noticed, for example, that we now write our name as “nAtIoNaL SeCuRiTy aGenCy” instead of “National Security Agency”. It’s a kind of retro punk thing, so we’re told.
Regardless of our battered image, chances are you’re here for one or more of three reasons. First, you’re a brilliant geek and all your old friends have abandoned you. Second, your father worked here. Third, you want to feel you’re doing something good for the world while enjoying superior pay and work conditions. You’re not alone. Motivations 1) and 3) are why people join Google and other co-opted arms of the Agency.
Whatever your reasons for joining us, you will all now be living in an elite bubble that we call the “intelligence community”. That means you’ll be working in cooperation with a large number of other entities that share our vision of “America First” – or, at least, who we’ve convinced to adopt that vision. For the moment you should familiarise yourself with just three of these entities:
The CIA: They do the human intelligence and we do the signals intelligence. Simple as that. The CIA plants bugs in embassies and we make sure the audio is clean. We talk as little as possible to each other and share just enough information to achieve plausible deniability.
The FBI. This agency lets us scan about thirty terabytes of (mainly useless) records every week and we sell it back to them in the form of clean data. The FBI then trades that data with other countries in return for “enhanced” international police cooperation. We then steal the expanded data back through covert surveillance, re-package it and then trade it with our operational partners.
INTERPOL We discovered in the 1970s that trading data with police agencies was legally messy, so we supported the international police cooperation agency INTERPOL in setting up vast global data systems that were entirely outside any legal jurisdiction. Then we hard-wired those systems to feed to us all the police “ground level” intelligence from dozens of countries so we could appear more efficient than we actually are. Think of INTERPOL as if it were a lawless conduit for all the data you require to post-justify your targeting.
Some of you have asked whether we achieve measurable results. This depends on your definition of “results”. We make people feel measurably safer even if we can’t prove they are any measurably more secure. This is not a contentious philosophy. Britain has about two million CCTV cameras justified by that precise reasoning.
We make people feel measurably safer even if we can’t prove they are any measurably more secure. This is not a contentious philosophy.
And on that topic, remember Britain is our main intelligence partner. Respect them. They subverted just about all legal rights and accountability to preserve this relationship with us, so no audible jokes about tea parties please.
Always keep in mind the three great advantages of the UK alliance: 1) When you design an intrusion technology, they’ll test it out and no-one will ever know – least of all their oversight bodies; 2) If you have US targets that you can’t legally infiltrate, they’ll do it for you and pass the information back to us without legal constraint, and 3) They’ll stop Europe from implementing this stupid idea of setting up its own version of us.
The intelligence world is a complex place. Think of it as if it was your family (we know the sort of families you come from, so make of that what you will). Here’s a quick international reference guide so you know what to think.
– Just about all African governments arise from at least some orchestrated corruption. Before you target anyone, check with the CIA to see if they were involved. If they were involved, intensify the surveillance and make sure NSA Command has all the data for “diplomatic” purposes (i.e. Beltway diplomacy).
– Anyone in Central or South America is a justifiable target. If they’re in Central America, drugs will be somewhere on the horizon – even if it’s a third generation connection. If they’re further south, most will be US-skeptic. Drugs plus US-Skeptic equals democratic instability, and we’re here to protect democracy.
– The Russian Federation is more complex. At a political level there’s a lot of grandstanding. Operationally though, we share intelligence with Russia on anyone who is a mutual target (and that, ironically, includes most of the Russian Federation). China is our main mutual target because it refuses to share the economic intelligence data it gathers about either Russia or America. All of us, however, have agreed to share intelligence data on the French.
– The Middle East. Just collect it. That data is always useful. Avoid Israel though. We already have a cross-collateralization deal with MOSAD to leverage the value-added of locally intercepted data. And besides, if they catch you snooping on their turf they’ll just endlessly whine about it.
So that’s about it. We hope you have a great time here, and always remember that you now have friends.