Digital National Security Archive – content update

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The History of the National Security Agency: 1945 to Present

The intensely secretive National Security Agency (NSA) is the United States’ national eavesdropping organization — the largest and most powerful branch of the U.S. intelligence community. It now may also be the most controversial, due to the warrantless domestic eavesdropping programs that the Agency has engaged in since the events of September 11, 2001. This document collection sketches the history of the publicity-shy organization’s
evolution, as it grew from a series of squabbling military cryptologic units on the verge of bankruptcy after the end of World War II, into the massive and immensely powerful intelligence empire of today — with an annual budget of more than $8 billion and a workforce of more than 60,000 soldiers and civilians.

The thousands of documents comprising this set include dozens of newly declassified NSA internal histories and in-house journal articles. These provide, for the first time, a detailed insight into the Agency’s operational successes and failures, and reveal the significant impact that
intelligence originating from NSA has had, both on government policy making and on battlefield decisions by military commanders — for better or for worse. Several hundred formerly Top Secret Codeword intelligence reports and memoranda included in the set were derived partially or in their entirety from Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) originating from the NSA, while several
hundred other declassified documents discuss the Agency’s organizational structure, intelligence collection and analytic operations, personnel and budgetary data, foreign liaison relationships, and sundry other operational matters. A number of formerly Top Secret Codeword assessments, carried out by more than a dozen outside study groups and Blue Ribbon panels (which were
chartered to examine NSA’s operations and capabilities) are highlights of the collection. They provide a unique and rich source of information about the Agency’s strengths and weaknesses throughout its more than 60 year history.

The U.S. Intelligence Community after 9/11

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Intelligence Community has been the focus of extraordinary public and policy attention, and the subject of significant changes aimed at enhancing the government’s ability to protect national security. Some of these changes would have occurred as the result of a natural evolutionary process – that is, due to new ideas and technological opportunities. But others, such as the creation of the office of the director of national intelligence, are direct consequences of 9/11 and the questions that arose surrounding the community’s performance prior to the attacks. The U.S. Intelligence Community after 9/11 will include all relevant documentation concerning the organizational changes made since 9/11, as well as information about intelligence activities that have occurred since the attacks — including material on collection, counterintelligence, and analysis. A particular feature of the set is its inclusion of the results of all official Congressional and executive branch inquiries into, and assessments of, Intelligence Community performance regarding 9/11, the war in Iraq, and
other similar issues of major public concern.

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