Things used to be so nice in Crypto City. The NSA’s sprawling campus at Fort Meade, Maryland had all the comforts of home for its thousands of employees. You could watch movies, such as “Pathfinder” in the Lapp language; “Touki Bouki” in the Wolof language of Africa; or “Wend Kuuni” in the Mõõre language. Crypto City had its own private bank, having $412 million in assets. Day care for toddlers was provided. The two most popular items at the Crypto City drug store were candy bars and headache medicine. There were eleven cafeterias. Several fitness centers for the NSA employees helped them sweat off the pounds.
If the NSA employees in Crypto City got stressed out or depressed from listening in on all the secrets, there was NSA’s “Employee Assistance Service” (EAS). There, about a dozen security-cleared therapists could listen to your troubles. Someone like Bradley Manning, for example, if he had been in Crypto City, could have just confessed his sins to a security-cleared therapist instead of to Julian Assange and Wikileaks.
In charge of this wonderful Crypto City world was Lt. General (3 stars) Kenneth Minihan. A far-sighted man, Minihan foretold there would be a vast change from “signals” (radio waves) listening and decoding to an “information battle” in cyberspace. In the coming decades, the information technology had to be controlled. General Minihan’s new slogan was, “Information dominance for America.” Said Minihan, “Information warfare poses a strategic risk of military failure and catastrophic economic loss and is one of the toughest threats this nation faces at the end of this century.”
Minihan saw that NSA risked becoming a fossil, wedded to past glories from the old “Enigma” and “Purple Code” days. Former glories could not guarantee future funding from Congress for the wonderful lifestyle of the Crypto City employees.
And sure enough, it happened! Minihan served awhile at NSA, but then retired. NSA’s Crypto City became more of a clunking dinosaur. The new scheme became “outsourcing.” A massive “consulting” firm – Booz-Allen & Hamilton – was among those competing for NSA contracts.
Among those working for Booz-Allen was Edward Snowden, an “infrastructure analyst.” Mr. Snowden was not inhabiting the wonderful world of Crypto City, since Booz-Allen was an outside contractor. Thus, he could not relax by watching “Touki Bouki” in the Wolof language of Africa, for example. More specifically, Snowden did not have daily access to the security-cleared therapists of Crypto City. As will happen when dealing with shocking secrets, Snowden increasingly wished to confess. But no security-cleared confessor was available! It was at this point that a non-cleared “confessor” – the Guardian newspaper – crossed the path of Edward Snowden. And from this there came Trouble In Crypto City, because more than anything else NSA dislikes being in the news. It has been called “No Such Agency” as an example of its fondest wish to avoid the limelight. But the Edward Snowden affair has shone a huge spotlight on NSA. And all because the outsourcers did not provide security-cleared confessors.
(Acknowledgement to Body Of Secrets, by James Bamford. New York: Doubleday, 2001)