The NSA : America’s ever-expanding digital spy agency

The NSA : America’s ever-expanding digital spy agency

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
The NSA : America’s ever-expanding digital spy agency

Edward Snowden. REUTERS photo

Revelations from U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden have shed a rare public spotlight on the ultra-secret National Security Agency, which uses super computers and code-breaking mathematicians to oversee the world’s most powerful electronic spying operation.

Created after World War II to avoid another Pearl Harbor-style surprise attack, the NSA “has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created,” wrote author James Bamford, whose books helped lift the lid on the agency’s work.
With code-breaking services in a disorganized jumble, President Harry Truman set up the NSA through a secret directive in 1952, allowing the agency virtually free reign to snoop on the Soviet Union and to track communications entering and leaving the United States.

Not only is the NSA in charge of all manner of “signals intelligence,” the agency’s chief also heads up the military’s Cyber Command for digital warfare, and the service plays a vital role in securing computer networks against a cyber attack on the United States.

The NSA’s budget remains classified but it is believed to be the largest in the intelligence community. Funding doubled since the attacks of September 11, 2011, according to the book “Top Secret America” by journalists Dana Priest and William Arkin.

Now, each day “collection systems at the NSA intercept and store 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications,” and the NSA “sorts a fraction of those in 70 separate databases,” according to “Top Secret America.”