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No Such Agency no more

June 16, 2013

After working safely away from the public eye for decades, the National Security Agency was thrust into the limelight, opening a controversy the likes of which America’s most secretive of secret services has never experienced.

The NSA is the US signals intelligence (Sigint) arm that intercepts and analyses electronic communications of every sort. Famed for its intense devotion to secrecy about itself and its mission, its employees joke that NSA stood for No Such Agency (or, alternatively, Never Say Anything). Recent revelations about “Prism”, an electronic surveillance programme, will be causing the whole institution great nervousness.

Initial media reports have proved too simplistic, in large part because Sigint is a complex art and science that few outsiders understand. Unlike Humint – human intelligence or traditional espionage – one cannot read a few spy novels and feel oneself in halfway command of the topic. Electronic espionage especially in the 21st century is too complex for that: Bill Gates meets James Bond.

Read the rest at The Financial Times 

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