All of us know something about the National Security Agency. Not as much as the National Security Agency knows about all of us, of course, but still, something.
We know now that the NSA, where that fugitive Edward Snowden used to work, is that huge governmental intelligence organization that has been eavesdropping electronically on our friends and our enemies for about fifty years. We know that besides helping our government disrupt a terrorist plot or two it could also tell us, if asked, how long you spoke to Aunt Nellie on her birthday back in 1996.
(Why the NSA was not listening in the other day when President Assad of Syria gave the order to kill some of his citizens with poison gas is a matter beyond my security clearance.)
We can disagree on whether the protection the NSA gives us by keeping tabs on some of our enemies is worth more than the threat it poses to our democratic system by keeping tabs on us and on some of our friends.
Whether you believe that the folks at the National Security Agency are good guys or bad guys, there is another NSA you should know about, and on this one there is no argument: they are Good Guys all the way around.
The Good Guy NSA is the National Security Archive. Archive, not Agency. Archive, as in repository of historical documents, as in library that’s open to the public. The NSArchive is a remarkable resource for information on every aspect of national security going back many decades. Almost any bit of information that once was secret and has now been released, can be found at the National Security ARCHIVE.
Here is the Archive’s brief description of itself:
“THE NATIONAL SECURITY ARCHIVE is an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. The Archive collects and publishes declassified documents acquired through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A tax-exempt public charity, the Archive receives no U.S. government funding; its budget is supported by publication royalties and donations from foundations and individuals. ”
The NSArchive runs a blog, Unredacted, and also sends out an email release to anyone interested every time it acquires some new document or information. Recent subjects include the CIA’s role in the 1953 coup in Iran, the history of the U-2 spy plane, the 1983 war scare, cold war diaries of Soviet leaders. And just yesterday, The Snowden Affair, an up-to-date compilation with analysis of everything available on the big NSA’s surveillance operations.
All of the NSArchive’s reports are available on its website. Anyone interested in these vital matters should check it frequently. (No, I am not connected with it except that I’m on its electronic mailing list.)
Having clarified the national security acronyms I’ll confuse you with another archive acronym. There is a something called the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA. It’s the official governmental repository of records. And the NSArchives can tell you a thing or two about some recent unhelpful activities of NARA.
Read ’em and weep.