The NSA | Declassified

Hi guys, I’m Robin and welcome to a new episode where we look at the events and organisations behind the world's biggest conspiracies Previously we’ve examined the CIA and how they carry out covert missions abroad to advance the United States’ interests

But today we'll be looking at the CIA's counterpart, The National Security Agency This is the NSA Declassified The NSA is responsible for intelligence gathering, code-breaking and safeguarding the communications of the government of the United States While the CIA can perform these duties through human agents in the field, otherwise known as HUMINT, the NSA is not officially sanctioned to do this Instead it conducts passive electronic collection by intercepting communications, known as SIGINT

The NSA can trace its roots back to 1917 When a military decryption and intelligence branch, named MI-8, was established to help during World War One Yet it continued to decrypt foreign communications, including those of America’s allies, well into the 1920s In 1929 Secretary of State Henry L Stimson pulled funding and closed the unit, saying “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail

” But after the Second World War it became clear that civilian agencies like the FBI and CIA lacked the intelligence gathering skills that military intelligence could provide So in 1952, President Truman formally established the National Security Agency Since then the NSA has been involved in some of the most questionable activities in US history

In 1964 the Gulf Of Tonkin Incident, in which the USS Maddox was possibly fired on by North Vietnamese forces, escalated the USA’s role in Vietnam to a full scale war In 2005 Robert J Hanyok, representing the NSA, concluded an investigation that ruled the NSA deliberately twisted evidence from the Gulf of Tonkin Incident to support US aggression in Vietnam At the same time, the NSA was also actively participating in actions against the American people Project Minaret and Project Shamrock were NSA surveillance operations that gathered or previewed all electronic communications entering and exiting the United States between August 1945 and May 1975

Project Shamrock is believed to have intercepted over 150,000 private messages a month Meanwhile Project Minaret targeted prominent civil rights and Anti-Vietnam activists It monitored approximately 1,650 people like Martin Luther King Jr, Jane Fonda and Muhammad Ali The projects only ended when Congressmen who had also been targeted exposed the activity

In 1978 the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was introduced to place limitations on the NSA, yet that would prove insufficient in the long run In 2013 former CIA employee and NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked between 15 and 18 million classified NSA files They exposed a massive global surveillance operation by the UK, the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, known as the “Five Eyes” network

This network actively collected information on millions of civilians without their consent The programs they used, called PRISM, STATEROOM, MUSCULAR, Tempora and XKeyscore, answered to none of the governments of those countries involved PRISM in particular gave the NSA direct access to individuals’ private data held by US tech giants like Google, Apple and Facebook Snowden also says the NSA and its British equivalent GCHQ hacked universities, hospitals and private businesses, which is illegal The NSA says it is impossible to analyze every American communication

But a tool called Boundless Informant allows the agency to record and track where data comes from The NSA not only targeted civilians with this program, but numerous EU diplomatic missions too The limitations put in place in 1978 were exploited by the NSA, as US judges signed off on broad and vague requests for information gathered without a warrant

Snowden alleges that PRISM costs the NSA, and by extension the taxpayer, $20 million a year The fallout from the Edward Snowden affair has been wide-reaching and is still unfolding Trust in government and political agencies is low Both at home and abroad the USA has lost standing and respect The American Civil Liberties Union, Freedom Watch USA and Rand Paul have all filed legal actions against the NSA and US Government

Laura Donohue, law professor with the Center on National Security and the Law, calls NSA surveillance “unconstitutional” The US Court of Appeals supports her, judging the NSA’s interpretation of the law and collection of phone records as illegal However if history has shown us anything, the NSA will continue to monitor us, quite possibly with the best of intentions, regardless of public or international perception of their actions

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