NSA sends letter to reassure “extended family”

In midst of scandal, the spy agency writes to employees, contractors "we will weather this storm"

Topics: NSA, Keith Alexander, Letter, Edward Snowden, Surveillance, Spying, National Security Agency, Contractors, Propaganda, , ,

In the midst of a an international scandal, it’s not clear how reassuring a letter printout can be. However, the NSA has sent out a missive to all employees and contractors, intended for the agency’s “extended family” to reassure them of the agency’s continuing fortitude.

Signed by both NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander and his deputy, John Inglis, the letter (which employees and contracted employees were encouraged to share with family and friends) opens:

“We want to put the information you are reading and hearing about in the press into context and reassure you that this Agency and its workforce are deserving and appreciative of your support.”

The spy chiefs, in this personalized P.R. move, insist that their agency remains a “national treasure”:

“Some media outlets have sensationalized the leaks to the press in a way that has called into question our motives and wrongly cast doubt on the integrity and commitment of the extraordinary people who work here at NSA/CSS—your loved one(s),” the letter suggests. “It has been discouraging to see how our Agency frequently has been portrayed in the news as more of a rogue element than a national treasure.”

Firedoglake’s Kevin Gozstola mockingly prodded the letter’s assertion that “All of the things we [the NSA] do to conduct our mission are lawful.” Gozstola added:

[E]xcept for when the NSA monitored the calls of over a thousand Americans engaged in political activities between 1967 and 1973. Except for when it was intercepting mail in the 1950s without distinguishing between messages from foreigners and Americans. Except for when it was involved in the 1960s in investigating “racial matters” or “student agitation” by activists in cooperation with the CIA and military intelligence agencies. Except for when it engaged in warrantless wiretapping, most recently after the September 11th attacks.

“We are human and, because the environment of law and technology within which we operate is so complex and dynamic, mistakes sometimes do occur,” the letter notes (without detailing whether handing over U.S. citizens’ raw communications data regularly to Israel without sifting for privacy protections counted as a “mistake,” nor indeed whether covertly and coercively influencing the very mathematical formulas underpinning standard encryption to allow for easier totalized surveillance could be deemed a “mistake.” Nor, as Gozstola noted, does the letter note whether the “mistakes” referred to include incidents like adding 16,000 phone numbers improperly to an “alert list.”

Never fear, employees of the surveillance state, friends and loved ones, the agency vows to “separate fact from fiction.”

“We have weathered storms before and we will weather this one together, as well,” ends the propaganda-drenched missive.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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