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National Security Agency (NSA)
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    (November 4, 1952- )
    Successor to the Armed Forces Security Agency
    Created by National Security Council Intelligence Directive 9
    Headquartered at Fort Meade, Maryland
    Responsible for analyzing foreign communications and providing security for government information systems
    Intercepts and stores 1.7 billion phone calls and emails a day
    For years, the government refused to acknowledge its existence, leading to jokes that NSA stood for 'No Such Agency' and 'Never Say Anything.'
    Much information about it, including its budget, remains classified.
    It deliberately distorted intelligence reports about the second Gulf of Tonkin incident (August 4, 1964), which LBJ would exploit to get Congress to authorize increased military intervention in Vietnam.
    Its headquarters consumes so much electricity that it has been directly responsible for power outages in Maryland (2000,2003).
    Although officially banned from monitoring domestic communications by US citizens without a warrant, it keeps getting caught doing it.
    It uses the euphemism 'overcollection' to describe spying on American citizens.
    Its training materials for analysts say about 'overcollection,' 'It's nothing to worry about.'
    After Edward Snowden revealed the PRISM data mining program, the New York Times wrote, 'Every detail about the public's calling and texting habits now reside in an NSA database.'
    Thanks to its interest in cryptography, it is the world's largest employer of mathematicians.
    It also has the world's largest collection of supercomputers.
    It runs the National Cryptologic Museum, which has some nifty espionage equipment on display.
    According to an NSA director, its communication surveilance helped prevent over 50 potential terrorist attacks worldwide (including at least 10 in the US) between 2001 and 2013.

Credit: C. Fishel

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