Insights into the NSA from the SIDToday Newsletter

Mathew Sayer In the News

Ever wonder what the gossip was like at NSA headquarters? The Intercept released all of 2003’s worth of spook newsletter SIDtoday¬†completely uncensored.

The leak shows NSA as a real mix of people. Not just haxxors. Linguists, mathematicians, cryptologists, and writers. There are associations and institutions dedicated to different fields, topics and projects. Clearly such extra-curricular activities (what’s the equivalent term in the workplace?) are a sign the agency has some of the brightest minds about. What a waste, well, parts of it anyway.

Relationships with other areas of the security apparatus are also made apparent. A “What’s on your mind” session for military personnel working within the SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) Directorate.

We’ve got a post on the bulk of this release already, but here’s what was going on 13 years ago during the early stages of the Iraq War II.

Did you know pagans still worship Isis?

Did you know pagans still worship Isis?

“I believe in magic.” Those were the words of MG Quirk at the new Signal Intelligence Directorate as he encountered his new leadership team on May 21st. “Energy was high as the individuals got to know one another, began to form as a unified team, and addressed the business of SID.” I’m not sure if that’s really creepy or amusing.

The next paragraph should help. “ID leaders discussed how to “facilitate brilliance” by eliminating impediments in the way of accomplishing SID’s mission.” To be fair, it could mean pure mathematic problems… Eliminating impediments sound like it could be innocuous. Eliminated, though. Not overcome, or negotiated with, or reconsidered.

“As MG Quirk stated, ‘We need to start and end our decision-making process with what’s best for the nation.'”

They, the guys with the ability to bring the dystopia we’re reluctant to look away from to fruition, are going to decide what’s best for the nation. Not just any nation. The nation of the empire state. There were two more leadership meetings in the next few months. On June 2nd the leaders met again off-site; maybe in their natural reptilian form (no, this isn’t that kind of site). Again, the desire to create magic was reiterated.

We also see the early stages of NSA’s predictive analytics (pre-crime) programs forming. On June 11th, 2003 SIDtoday covered PATENTHAMMER, a “proof of concept to demonstrate reach-forward/reach-back operations”. The US Army has an early warning system called PROPHET to allow Brigade Commanders to visualize “his” battle space using real time “intercepted voice communications” and “Lines of Bearing location data.” This superpower is really all maths.

The constant references to character and personality at the top feels strained with the burden of the job. How much glee is there at an intelligence agency when they get the big guns out.

NSA refers to the government agencies they spy for as “customers.” Is that tradecraft or something to do with the highly corporate atmosphere within government these days? The NSA itself is heavily comprised of private contractors, look at Ed Snowden, Check out this big infographic.