THE BIG PITCH: How can the National Security Agency maintainsecrecy and still inform the public?

Jeff Seideman, Director, account services, Sterling Hager,

Watertown, MA

This is a no-brainer. If a secret government agency wants to increase

public understanding of its activities it has to ... tah dah ... be less

secretive. That doesn't mean it has to give away all its secrets, or

tell how, when or where it collects its information. But it should be

explaining why it's collecting its information, and how it is being


Case studies of a few successful examples would be ideal. Hardly anyone

with a realistic view of the world would question the need for gathering

information. After all, there are those out there that would do us


But the public would like to know that the government is successfully

walking the line between getting the information it needs and acting

with moral authority in a very complex, dynamic world.

Catherine Dunkin, Principal, The Standing Partnership, St. Louis

I recommend four actions: 1. Define clear objectives; determine how NSA

will measure the campaign's success, both short- and long-term. Gain

full internal agreement.

2. Develop precise, candid messages that help reinforce the NSA's

mission. Focus on important activities Americans can rally behind;

identify areas that may cause concern.

3. Designate spokespeople, then stay on message. NSA has vital,

classified - and extremely interesting - information that could become

"hot news." Share openly what can be shared; avoid discussing things

that can't.

4. Identify independent third-party experts to offer support for NSA's

value to our country and its future.

David Lerner, President, Riptide Communications, New York

I think they have to do as any intelligence agency should and expose

themselves to public scrutiny. They need to learn that in order for

people to trust them in the future, they have to be honest about their

history, and honest about what they may have been involved in that

violated the Constitution and norms of US law. It cuts across the grain

of the US system for its country's agencies to be so highly secretive.

The American people who pay their salaries have a right to know how

government agencies operate.

Americans also have a right to know the extent to which their own

personal information is available and used by the NSA. They have to make

a commitment to be as open as they can within the statutory framework.

NSA has a hard job ahead of it. It is a mysterious agency, but I think

it could work for them.

Jill Ward, Associate, Lambert, Edwards & Associates, Grand Rapids,


As a former cryptography soldier and public affairs officer in the US

Army, I struggled every day to strike a balance between the NSA's need

to protect its operations and the media's desire to give the public a

great story. What struck me was the NSA's lack of external relationships

with the public it served. In order for the NSA to increase public

understanding of its activities, it must change the pervasive culture of

media mistrust to one where external communication is seen as a tool to

support the NSA's missions and activities.

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