Spies Prep Reporters on Protecting Secrets
By JOSH GERSTEIN
Staff Reporter of the Sun
September 27, 2007
Frustrated by press leaks about its most sensitive electronic surveillance work, the secretive National Security Agency convened an unprecedented series of off-the-record "seminars" in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency's mission to spy on America's enemies.
The half-day classes featured high-ranking NSA officials highlighting objectionable passages in published stories and offering "an innocuous rewrite" that officials said maintained the "overall thrust" of the articles but omitted details that could disclose the agency's techniques, according to course outlines obtained by The New York Sun.
Dubbed "SIGINT 101," using the NSA's shorthand for signals intelligence, the seminar was presented "a handful of times" between approximately 2002 and 2004, an agency spokeswoman, Marci Green, confirmed yesterday. Officials were pleased with the program, she said.
"They believe they were very successful in being able to talk to journalists regarding our mission and the sensitivities of our mission in an unclassified way," Ms. Green said.
The syllabi make clear that the sessions, which took place at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., were conceived of not merely as familiarization tours, but as part of a campaign to limit the damage caused by leaks of sensitive intelligence.