The National Security Agency Central Security Service or just NSA, is located at Fort Meade, Maryland and was formed in 1952. The NSA is unquestionably the most secretive security agency in the U.S. government. The NSA's headquarters is located about 15 mi (24 km) southwest of Baltimore, Maryland. The NSA has its own exit off Maryland Route 295 South and is labeled "NSA Employees Only." The scale of the operations at the NSA is hard to determine from unclassified data; some 18,000 parking spaces are visible in photos of the site.
NSA goes by the nickname, "No Such Agency". The NSA's annual spending budget is highly classified and is "buried" in the Department of Defense's annual spending budget, but by some estimates now approaches $20 billion annually. The NSA is directed by at least a Army lieutenant general or Navy vice-admiral. The present Director of the NSA is U.S. Army General Keith B. Alexander. He is also Commander, U.S. Cyber Command or CyberSecurity, which protects us against cyber attacks, and which I profiled back on February 7, 2011.
NSA's work is limited to communications intelligence; it does not perform field or human intelligence (spying on people) activities. By law, NSA's intelligence gathering is limited to foreign communications, although incidents such as the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy have occurred. NSA has the ability to spy on any individual, organization, business or government agency (foreign or domestic) and has done so 24/7, 365.
The NSA is a cryptologic intelligence agency and specializes in "signal intelligence" or code breaking. They can intercept any electronic signal, in any form, frequency or language, encrypted or non-encrypted. They can eavesdrop on anybody, even listen to conversations through brick walls. Yes, they even listened to Osama Bin Ladin's satellite phone conversations when he was hiding out in Tora Bora, and they could be listening to you right now. Their website says,
"Our Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.The U.S. intelligence community operates a virtual shadow government consisting of thousands of private contractors. The use of private contractors has ballooned, growing from a mere two dozen plus contractors in the 1990’s to over 5,400 in 2008. It's probably 6,000 by now. It has been estimated that 70% of the intelligence budget are private contractors."
The NSA conducts its signal intelligence gathering through a network of highly sophisticated, state-of-the-art and classified sea, air and land-based signal interception stations and satellites known as ECHELON. The following map details the global distribution and shear scale of ECHELON.
According to Echelon.org, ECHELON is perhaps the most powerful intelligence gathering organization in the world. Several credible reports suggest that this global electronic communications surveillance system presents an extreme threat to the privacy of people all over the world. According to these reports, ECHELON attempts to capture staggering volumes of satellite, microwave, cellular and fiber-optic traffic, including communications to and from North America. This vast quantity of voice and data communications are then processed through sophisticated filtering technologies.
This massive surveillance system apparently operates with little oversight. Moreover, the agencies that purportedly run ECHELON have provided few details as to the legal guidelines for the project. Because of this, there is no way of knowing if ECHELON is being used illegally to spy on private citizens.
Your tax dollars go to finance the NSA's ultra-secret activities so it's my job to inform you about these punks. Bring it. The Discovery Channel did an excellent documentary about the history of the NSA and their ultra-secret eavesdropping activities.
If you visit the NSA's website and click ABOUT NSA, this is what it says:
"The National Security Agency/Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) is home to America's codemakers and codebreakers. The National Security Agency has provided timely information to U.S. decision makers and military leaders for more than half a century. The Central Security Service was established in 1972 to promote a full partnership between NSA and the cryptologic elements of the armed forces.
NSA/CSS is unique among the U.S. defense agencies because of our government-wide responsibilities. NSA/CSS provides products and services to the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community, government agencies, industry partners, and select allies and coalition partners. In addition, we deliver critical strategic and tactical information to war planners and war fighters.
By its very nature, what NSA/CSS does as a key member of the Intelligence Community requires a high degree of confidentiality. Our Information Assurance mission confronts the formidable challenge of preventing foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information. Our Signals Intelligence mission collects, processes, and disseminates intelligence information from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations. This Agency also enables Network Warfare operations to defeat terrorists and their organizations at home and abroad, consistent with U.S. laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties.
NSA/CSS exists to protect the Nation. Our customers know they can count on us to provide what they need, when they need it, wherever they need it."