A talk by James Bamford, the author of “The Puzzle Palace” and “Body of Secrets” & Chris Calabrese Program Counsel of the ACLU Technology and Liberty Project. This man has fought the government and won his case against the NSA. That takes guts.Â
Â Â Â Â The National Security Agency can be traced to the May 20, 1949, creation of theÂ Armed Forces Security AgencyÂ (AFSA). This organization was originally established within theÂ U.S. Department of DefenseÂ under the command of theÂ Joint Chiefs of Staff. The AFSA was to direct the communications and electronic intelligence activities of the U.S.Â military intelligenceÂ units: theÂ Army Security Agency, theÂ Naval Security Group, and theÂ Air Force Security Service. But the agency had little power and lacked a centralized coordination mechanism. The creation of NSA resulted from a December 10, 1951, memo sent byÂ CIAÂ DirectorÂ Walter Bedell SmithÂ to James S. Lay, Executive Secretary of theNational Security Council.Â The memo observed that “control over, and coordination of, the collection and processing of Communications Intelligence had proved ineffective” and recommended a survey of communications intelligence activities. The proposal was approved on December 13, 1951, and the study authorized on December 28, 1951. The report was completed by June 13, 1952. Generally known as the “Brownell Committee Report,” after committee chairmanÂ Herbert Brownell, it surveyed the history of U.S. communications intelligence activities and suggested the need for a much greater degree of coordination and direction at the national level. As the change in the security agency’s name indicated, the role of NSA was extended beyond the armed forces.
The creation of NSA was authorized in a letter written by PresidentÂ Harry S. TrumanÂ in June 1952. The agency was formally established through a revision of National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9 on October 24, 1952,Â and officially came into existence on November 4, 1952. President Truman’s letter was itselfÂ classifiedÂ and remained unknown to the public for more than a generation.