WASHINGTON: The National Security Agency (NSA), a Defense
Department unit so secretive it's sometimes referred to as "No Such
Agency," is breaking its code of silence to let people know what it
Established in 1952, the NSA is responsible both for breaking foreign
codes in order to gain intelligence and for protecting all classified
domestic information. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, for
example, it was the NSA that provided the day-to-day information on the
arms buildup in Cuba by intercepting and deciphering communications
between the Cubans and the Soviets.
But Judith Emmel, chief of public and media affairs at the NSA, said too
few Americans are aware of such accomplishments, learning instead about
the agency through sensationalized images in popular culture.
"What people know about the NSA is what they learned from the latest
Will Smith movie," she said. "We're a very powerful and secretive
agency, and in this society people tend to be distrustful of power and
secrecy. Now we're trying to make people understand what we do."
"We've done interviews and allowed news organizations to bring cameras
into the building - this is all very new for us," Emmel continued. "An
intelligence agency getting out and talking about what it does is a
little unusual. Previously we would have declined all of this."
Emmel said the NSA has neither hired new public affairs staff (it
currently boasts a team of 15) and has no intention of hiring a PR or ad
firm. "This is a completely in-house effort," she said.