National Security Agency

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United StatesUnited States National Security Agency
- NSA -
Seal of the NSA
State level Federation
Supervisory authority (s) United States Department of Defense
Consist since November 4, 1952
Headquarters Crypto City , Fort Meade
Maryland , United States
United StatesUnited States 
Authority management DIRNSA:
General Paul M. Nakasone
Richard H. Ledgett
Employee approx. 40,000 (estimate, exact information is secret)
Budget volume approx. 10.8 billion US dollars (estimate, exact information is secret)
NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, 2013

The National Security Agency ( German  National Security Agency ), official abbreviation NSA , is the largest foreign intelligence service of the United States . The NSA is responsible for the worldwide surveillance, deciphering and evaluation of electronic communication and in this function part of the intelligence community , in which all intelligence services of the USA are brought together. The NSA works with intelligence agencies of affiliated states. In Germany, from 2007 to 2013, the main tasks were Strategic Mission J ( industrial espionage ) and Strategic Mission K (monitoring political leaders).

The NSA operates under both the authority of the United States Department of Defense and, as a member of the United States Intelligence Community, under the authority of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence . The director of the NSA is also the commander of the United States Cyber ​​Command and the head of the Central Security Service .

In Germany, the NSA is based for its official activities (NSA / CSS Representative Europe office, NCEUR) in the Patch Barracks in Stuttgart-Vaihingen . In 1989 the magazine Der Spiegel reported on the extensive eavesdropping activities of the NSA in Germany, which at that time uncovered the illegal construction of a chemical factory in Libya (see Imhausen-Chemie ). As early as 1976, the former NSA agent Winslow Peck had declared at a press conference in Frankfurt am Main that the NSA in Europe “has an immense electronic espionage apparatus with the help of which it collects information not only about the Eastern bloc but also about Western European governments become."

She has been the subject of a global surveillance and espionage affair since Edward Snowden's revelations in the summer of 2013 . The NSA investigative committee of the German Bundestag , which was then established, has been investigating the "extent and background of the spying by foreign secret services in Germany" since March 20, 2014.



The first structure of the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland

Even before the end of the Second World War , the race for secret information from the German Reich began, with the American troops encountering secret information faster than the Soviet ones. The TICOM (Target Intelligence Committee) was responsible for the search, recovery and transport of objects relevant to the secret service (e.g. encryption machines such as the German Enigma ) and people.

The NSA was created by US President Harry S. Truman in September 1945 under the name Army Security Agency (ASA) as a subdivision of the Department of Defense ( United States Department of Defense ). From 1949 the ASA became the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA). On November 4, 1952, the day Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected 34th President of the United States, the NSA was officially founded. It was set up with the task of listening to foreign communications.

In the early days, the NSA was the unwanted stepchild of powerful espionage chiefs such as Allen Welsh Dulles . By the late 1970s, the agency had become so influential that the then CIA head complained that it could hardly be controlled.

On May 1, 1960, the Lockheed U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers flew an early morning spy flight over the Soviet Union to gather information for the NSA. He was shot down by the Soviet air defense . He survived, was captured and interrogated. The then Soviet head of state Nikita Khrushchev "was seething with rage", because this happened not only on May 1st, but shortly before a planned summit between the USA and the Soviet Union. Even before that day, American spy pilots had grazed Soviet territory on Eisenhower's orders. He tried to cover up the flights and denied his orders before Congress, which opened an investigation into the Powers case. Eisenhower completed his second term without further damage.

Under the NSA director Laurence H. Frost , the NSA began to expand a surveillance fleet at sea for the first time, as the airspace espionage became increasingly dangerous. In addition, the southern hemisphere could be monitored by the NSA for the first time.


The largest known incident within the NSA occurred in September 1960 when NSA analysts William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell defected to Moscow and disclosed NSA secrets in front of the Soviet camera. After Martin and Mitchell , who were suspected of being homosexual , defected, the FBI compiled a list of all suspected homosexual men in the United States. President Eisenhower had it blacklisted, a relapse into the McCarthy-era surveillance zeal.

But James Harper (alias John Anthony Walker ) also managed to keep the KGB up to date on American military secrets for 17 years.

James W. Hall provided the Ministry of State Security (MfS) with extensive material on the NSA's activities against the Federal Republic. The 13,088-page documents passed into the possession of the Gauck authorities and were brought to the USA in 1992 in violation of the Stasi Records Act in cooperation with the Interior Ministry.

Mauritius and Chagos Archipelago

In the wave of independence movements in the 1960s, the British colony of Mauritius also called for its independence. After independence, Great Britain paid three million pounds and claimed the Chagos Archipelago , which was formerly part of the Mauritius colony and lies in the middle of the Indian Ocean. After the press reports about the unusual deal had subsided, Great Britain turned the archipelago into a colony in order to immediately leave it to the USA and thus the NSA for a defense facility free of charge. Between 1965 and 1973, the inhabitants who had lived on the islands for two centuries were deported by ship to Mauritius and the Seychelles using force .

Attack on the USS Liberty by Israel

The USS Liberty was a WWII ship. She provided valuable service to the American military during the Korean War when she crossed the Pacific 18 times. It was sent to the ship cemetery for five years in 1958, but was then equipped with four 12.7 mm MG for use again in the Cold War .

USS Liberty after repair

In June 1967 the USS Liberty was under Captain William McGonagle , equipped with listening devices valued at 10.2 million US dollars, in the Mediterranean off the coast of the Sinai . At that time the Six Day War between Israel and a coalition of Syria , Jordan and Egypt was in full swing in this area . Although the Liberty was recognizable as a US ship, she was attacked on June 8, 1967 by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats. 34 crew members were killed and 171 injured. Following an investigation into the incident, the Israeli government stated that the ship had been misidentified from the air and was mistakenly mistaken for either an Egyptian warship suspected in the region or a Soviet spy ship that was providing information to the Arab opponents of the war. In addition, the US had assured that no American ships would be in this area. Although this presentation sounded implausible to experts in view of Israel's intelligence capabilities, the US government officially accepted this declaration.

Therefore, critics of this representation suspected that the attack could have been targeted, although it was known that it was a US ship. It has been speculated that the Liberty may have gathered information that is detrimental to Israel, such as: B. Alleged war crimes during the Israeli advance. These speculations were made without any evidence.

Two years after the incident, Israel provided financial compensation to the wounded and bereaved.

Capture of the USS Pueblo by North Korea

USS Pueblo (1967)

The USS Pueblo (AGER-2) , a Navy reconnaissance ship, was on its way to North Korea in January 1968 because of six American soldiers and seven South Korean soldiers who had been murdered as well as the attempted shooting down of an American spy plane . The Navy decided to carry out this action despite a warning from the NSA. During its mission off the North Korean coast, the ship was shot at, boarded and the crew arrested after an appropriate threat. The crew was tortured and interrogated using the cryptological devices on board. Valuable ciphers were lost so that the KGB learned sensitive American military secrets with the help of the defector James Harper.

The NSA and the Vietnam War

Even before the US military intervention in the Vietnam War , the United States General Staff was pushing for military intervention in Vietnam. Misinformation from the NSA ultimately gave Defense Secretary Robert McNamara the reason to speak of an unprovoked attack on North Vietnam . This provided President Lyndon B. Johnson with an excuse to openly intervene in the war in 1965.

In order to save time, the American soldiers communicated on site using codes they had invented themselves or even unencrypted. The ciphers and devices required by the NSA were bypassed. Just like the CIA, the leading NSA agents contradicted the representation of the military leadership in Saigon , which assessed the strength of the enemy formations as low as possible. Prior to the Tet Offensive , the NSA intercepted messages indicating the impending attack but largely ignored by the military.

When the Americans withdrew in 1975, an entire warehouse with the most important encryption machines and other encryption material was left undamaged. This is believed to have been the greatest loss of highly classified equipment and materials in American history.

Operation Minaret

As part of Operation Minaret, the NSA monitored opponents of the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1973. Among the 1,650 US citizens monitored were civil rights activists Martin Luther King and Whitney Young , athlete Muhammad Ali , and US Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker . Journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post were also monitored. Due to the legally questionable nature of the surveillance, all reports resulting from the surveillance were printed out on paper without an official NSA logo and sent directly to recipients in the White House by NSA courier.

The Shamrock Project

Under NSA deputy director Louis W. Tordella, the dividing line between foreign enemies and US citizens faded greatly. Tordella had FBI agents break into foreign embassies in Washington. Under the Shamrock Project , he had Americans communicating abroad eavesdropped on a daily basis. It did so from 1945 to 1975, when investigator L. Britt Snider brought the matter to light on a public committee following a push by Idaho's Senator Frank Church , despite opposition from President Gerald Ford and the White House. Even within the NSA, few people knew about Project Shamrock before an article about it appeared in the New York Times . Lieutenant General Lew Allen, Jr. , then director of the NSA, didn't need to elaborate on Project Shamrock thanks to the Republican committee representatives. Church adjourned the discussion to closed sessions. He also avoided mentioning the names of telegraph and telephone companies involved in the program that would have come to court and suffered significant damage.

As a result, it was stated that the rights of US citizens would be observed more strictly. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act precisely defined the competencies of the NSA.

The NSA in the satellite age

GRAVE: America's first spy satellite

With the beginning of space travel (so-called " Sputnik shock "), the Americans shot the world's first spy satellite into space in June 1960 . It was code-named GRAB ( Galactic Radiation and Background ) and supposedly was used to measure the sun's rays. In fact, it was an electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite and was used to monitor Soviet air defense radars that the US Navy and US Air Force could not monitor. The information about this project was released in June 1998 on the 75th anniversary of the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL; German  US Navy Research Laboratory ).

It became an important source of information when the Soviet authorities used all means of communication to re-establish the broken connection between ground control and a cosmonaut. It was also the NSA who in the 1970s created a global infrastructure called Echelon for UKUSA members with the help of satellites .

Relations with South Africa

In the late 1970s, the NSA supplied South Africa's apartheid regime with the latest wiretapping technology so that it could spy on Soviet ships sailing along the coast. In return, the NSA was given access to the raw data obtained.

The secret news organization SCS

Locations and status of the “Special Collection Service” support points as of August 13, 2010

In 1978 a secret intelligence organization called the Special Collection Service was founded, which combines the intelligence service capabilities of the CIA with the technical capabilities of the NSA. The task of the SCS is to accommodate highly developed eavesdropping equipment from bed bugs to parabolic antennas in hard-to-reach places and , if possible , to recruit foreign communication personnel. According to congressional hearings, the SCS not only allowed break-ins, but also attempted to murder people. The group, which emerged from Department D of the CIA, is led alternately by an NSA and a CIA representative. They are based on Springfield Road in Beltsville , Maryland , just a few miles south of NSA headquarters.

In October 2013 (shortly after the 2013 federal election ) Der Spiegel presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with copies of documents from Edward Snowden's fund , which are supposed to prove that Angela Merkel's cell phone communications had been tapped by the NSA and SCS since 2002. The term SCS became known in Germany through publications. Even the French President Francois Hollande and other presidents were tapped. Merkel reacted angrily; For the first time in the history of the Federal Republic, the US ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office .

Furthermore, Der Spiegel reports that more than 80 embassies and consulates around the world are said to be involved in the SCS. 19 of them are said to be in Europe - for example in Paris , Madrid , Rome , Prague , Vienna and Geneva . Listening posts in Germany are said to be in the US Consulate General in Frankfurt and in the Embassy of the United States in Berlin , which have the highest level of equipment - i.e. H. are manned by active employees. According to the reports, the SCS teams operate their own wiretapping systems with which they can eavesdrop on all common communication technologies, such as mobile phones, WLANs, satellite communication, etc. The devices required for this are usually installed on the upper floors of the embassy building or on roofs and are protected with screens and superstructures.

According to a report by Bild am Sonntag , Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schröder (Chancellor until autumn 2005) was also bugged from 2002 . The reason was the federal government's no to participate in the Iraq war in 2002 (see also Iraq crisis 2003 ). This raised the question of whether Schröder was still trustworthy. Schröder's proximity to the then Russian President Vladimir Putin also worried. Bild uses the term “ Handygate ” (referring to the Watergate affair ).


Radomes of the secret service 18th United States Army Security Agency Field Station in Bad Aibling.
Friendship annex of the NSA: Extension buildings, around 15 kilometers north of Fort Meade

During the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein received intelligence information from the NSA on Iran's warfare for four years, including intelligence-gathering methods such as telecommunications intelligence.

After the end of the Cold War, numerous NSA and GCHQ listening posts around the world were closed, including the station on the Eckstein in Bavaria . From 1991 to 1994 the number of spy satellites operated by the NSA fell by almost half. A lot of staff was cut in the 1990s. From 1990 to 1997 the number of employees fell by 17.5%.

Media reported since the late 1990s that the NSA might have a. bugged the German company Enercon . The data obtained in this way had been transmitted to the American competitor Kenetech Windpower Inc. This would have used the data to gain access to Enercon's core technologies and patent them in the USA. In fact, the responsible US authority, the International Trade Commission, imposed an import ban on Enercon in August 1996 until February 1, 2010. The reason was that Enercon's intended export of 280 wind turbines to the USA violated claim 131 of US patent 5,083,039 would. The patent was filed on February 1, 1991, three years before the alleged espionage, by the Californian company US Windpower Inc. Kenetech Windpower Inc. acquired this patent in 1993 and initiated the import ban proceedings. The patent in dispute was acquired by the General Electric Company in 2002. Enercon GmbH and General Electric Company settled their patent litigation in 2004, which means that the American market was no longer closed to Enercon.

On November 15, 1999, the then NSA director Michael V. Hayden announced the “100 days of change”. As a result, all groups that did not want to face the changing world of communications were removed, including conservative people like NSA Vice Director Barbara McNamara.

2000 until today

A radome on the grounds of RAF Menwith Hill (air base). The facility has a satellite downlink connection and is used by ECHELON.

After successfully overcoming the extensive preparations for the year 2000 problem , there was a total failure of the entire network in Fort Meade on January 24, 2000, but this is denied. When Michael V. Hayden became director of the NSA, the agency is said to have lagged behind the latest information technology developments. While communication via satellites is easy to intercept, intercepting signals from fiber optics requires a lot of effort. Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) is promising in the fiber optic field . This is a technology for higher data transmission speed, in which the data is transmitted via a fiber with several different wavelengths instead of light of one wavelength, thus significantly increasing throughput. In order not to lose touch with modern information transmission technologies, the NSA founded MONET (Multiwavelength Optical Networking), a lobby organization for the telecommunications industry.

The NSA has supported a number of open source computer security projects since the Clinton administration , such as SELinux . Furthermore, the authority, which had been working in secret until then, began with an "official blessing" to publish advice on improving computer security . Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 , however, the Bush administration has reduced any involvement in the area of ​​open source and the publication of security-relevant facts and instructions. Instead, President Bush issued an executive order in 2005 that lifted wiretapping restrictions that had been introduced in the 1970s.

The New York Times reported in 2005 that the NSA had been tapping domestic phone calls since 2002.

The Bad Aibling station in Bavaria was finally closed in 2004 after an EU procedure had come to the conclusion that the facility was used to a large extent for industrial espionage ( Echelon ). As far as is known, the units were relocated to the RAF Menwith Air Force Base , near Griesheim ( Dagger Complex ) and to Turkey . In the spring of 2004, a new interception base with five radomes was completed on the former August Euler airfield .

Since 2011, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has been building the Utah Data Center for the NSA , a new data center in Bluffdale , Utah , which, according to unconfirmed media reports, should have started operations at the end of 2013 after some technical problems. In addition to storing large parts of the entire Internet communication, enormous computing resources are also being used to decode the Advanced Encryption Standard encryption method . The cost of the construction will amount to 2 billion US dollars. In addition to the Utah Data Center (official project name: Bumblehive / IC CNCI Data Center 1), further construction projects are currently (2013) being worked on. According to the US Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, these are projects in the UK, the US states of Georgia, Colorado, Maryland and a location whose name is Classified Location is not published. The foundation stone for the High Performance Computing Center-2 was laid on May 6, 2013 in Fort Meade, Maryland, at the NSA headquarters . Completion was planned for 2016. A report by the NSA from 2010 outlining possible extensions on the Site M designated premises. According to this, up to 11,000 people could be employed there in 2029.

The NSA programs PRISM , Tempora , Boundless Informant and xKeyscore as well as further details about the NSA were published by the whistleblower Edward Snowden . Since then, PRISM has also been used as a metaphor for the NSA scandal. The Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO) , which has existed since 1997, plays a central role. In the Remote Operations Center (ROC), 600 employees obtain information from all over the world around the clock.

The Data Network Technologies Branch department automates spy software, which is continuously improved by new interception methods from the Telecommunications Network Technologies Branch . Hardware and infrastructure are provided by the Mission Infrastructure Technologies Branch.

If necessary, the Access Technologies Operations Branch works with the CIA to obtain physical access to targets and install monitoring devices on site. At the end of June 2013, it became known that the NSA had installed eavesdropping devices in EU buildings in Washington, New York and Brussels .

According to press reports, the NSA internally classifies the Federal Republic of Germany as a “third-class partner” with whom one cooperates if necessary, but whose communication streams are considered legitimate targets and are comprehensively skimmed off. In 2012, around 20 million telephone connection data and 10 million Internet data records were spied on in Germany every day.

On June 30, 2013, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding threatened to suspend talks on the proposed free trade agreement between the EU and the United States. The background to this was a report by Der Spiegel, according to which the American intelligence agency spied on EU institutions. "Partners don't spy on each other," Reding said. "We cannot negotiate a large transatlantic market when there is the slightest suspicion that our partners are spying on our negotiators' offices."

History professor Josef Foschepoth has documented how extensively the USA has controlled communication since the beginning of the Federal Republic.

The Federal Intelligence Service delivered a copy of its Mira4 and Veras software to the NSA . NSA analysts have attested that these tools have capabilities that exceed the capabilities of the NSA for intelligence gathering.

According to a list by Snowden that is classified as secret, the NSA leads Germany as an espionage target in the areas of German foreign policy, economic stability, dangers to the financial economy, arms exports, new technologies, highly developed conventional weapons and international trade.

A US government spokesman admitted on August 21, 2013 that tens of thousands of American emails had been unconstitutionally siphoned off for three years. This supposedly happened because of a technical problem.

Global surveillance and espionage affair

The global surveillance and espionage affair arose from the revelations of top secret documents of the National Security Agency and subsequent publications and international reactions to them. The US whistleblower and former secret service employee Edward Snowden revealed in early June 2013 how the United States, together with the Five Eyes, has been monitoring telecommunications and especially the Internet on a global scale and independently of suspicion since 2007 at the latest . As a justification, politicians and secret service heads of the countries cite that the measures will prevent terrorist attacks.

NSA inquiry committee

The NSA investigation committee that emerged from the surveillance and espionage affair is a committee of inquiry set up by the German Bundestag on March 20, 2014 on behalf of all parliamentary groups to investigate the "[...] extent and background of the spying by foreign secret services in Germany on [to]" clarify ".


The NSA is tasked with monitoring global telecommunications of all kinds, filtering it for information that can be used by the intelligence service, identifying, securing, analyzing and evaluating it. It is also responsible for national encryption and the protection of its own national telecommunications channels, including ensuring national data security and the functioning of cyberspace , with the exception of the networks and communications networks of the US armed forces .


The existence of the NSA was kept secret for many years. The abbreviation NSA was therefore jokingly reinterpreted by its own staff as No Such Agency (“No such authority”) or Never Say Anything (“Never say anything”). Even today, little is known about their exact activities. In the public eye, it is primarily the authority's management staff, who are chaired exclusively by the military.



The Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA) is director of the National Security Agency (NSA) , the Central Security Services (CSS) and the United States Cyber Command (USCC) .

See: Director of the National Security Agency .

Deputy Directors

Period Deputy Director
December 2, 1952 to July 28, 1953 Rear Adm. Joseph N. Wenger , USN
October 26, 1953 to June 4, 1956 Brigadier General John Ackerman , USAF
June 4, 1956 to November 24, 1956 Major General John A. Samford , USAF
February 2, 1957 to September 18, 1957 Joseph H. Ream
October 18, 1957 to August 1, 1958 Howard T. Engstrom
August 1, 1958 to April 21, 1974 Louis W. Tordella , USN
April 22, 1974 to April 30, 1978 Benson K. Buffham
May 1, 1978 to March 30, 1980 Robert E. Drake
April 1, 1980 to July 30, 1982 Ann Z. Caracristi
July 31, 1982 to July 3, 1986 Robert E. Rich
July 9, 1986 to March 13, 1988 Charles R. Lord
March 14, 1988 to July 28, 1990 Gerald R. Young
July 29, 1990 to February 1, 1994 Robert L. Prestel
February 2, 1994 to September 12, 1997 William P. Crowell
November 8, 1997 to June 30, 2000 Barbara McNamara
July 10, 2000 to July 2006 William B. Black, Jr.
August 2006 to January 10, 2014 John C. Inglis
since January 2014 Richard H. Ledgett


  • The NSA's Directorate of Operations (DO) is the agency's largest single department.
  • The Defense Special Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC) is an NSA department that oversees rocket launches and space travel in general.
  • Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM)

Central Security Service

The Central Security Service (CSS; Central Security Service ) serves as a liaison service between the NSA and the intelligence services of the armed forces . Here the cooperation with the departments responsible for cryptology of the Navy (US Fleet Cyber ​​Command), the Marine Corps (US Marine Corps Director of Intelligence), the Army (US Army Intelligence and Security Command) and the Air Force (US Air Force's Intelligence , Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency) and the Coast Guard (US Coast Guard Deputy Assistant Commandant for Intelligence).

Headquarters "Crypto City"

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland

The headquarters of the NSA is located in Fort George G. Meade in Maryland , about 32 km northeast of Washington, DC The NSA has its own exit on the Maryland State Route 32 ( ), marked with NSA Employees Only ( "only NSA employee" ). Visitors should only choose Exit 10A Canine Road - NSA to the freely accessible National Cryptologic Museum . World icon

The nine-story headquarters building was built in 1963, the older Operations Center 1 is from the early 1950s. The black NSA Buildings 2A and 2B were designed by New York architects Eggers and Higgins and built in 1986. The windows of the headquarters and operations center of "Crypto City", as the headquarters is also called, are made of protective shielding technology with copper under the black glass facade so that no electromagnetic signals can escape.

The streets are patrolled by their own police force, which has various commandos - for example the one whose members are called " Men in Black " because of their paramilitary black uniforms . Another unit, the Executive Protection Unit , provides the drivers and bodyguards to run the NSA and conducts advance security investigations in places where the director or his deputy will appear.

Crypto City offers NSA employees extensive variety. There are many different professional associations in the city, with the National Cryptologic School (NCS) its own further education facility in Linthicum Heights. For those interested in winter sports there is the Sun, Snow & Surf Ski Club, which offers its members trips to Switzerland and Austria. In addition to its own daily newspaper ( SIGINT Summary or "SIGSUM", which went online in 1997 as the National SIGINT File and offers current world events through telecommunications intelligence), the NSA also offers its own television station with the news program Newsmagazine and the Show Talk NSA .

Branch offices

United States


In Germany, from 2007 to 2013 the main tasks of the NSA were Strategic Mission J ( industrial espionage ) and Strategic Mission K (monitoring of political leaders).

Technical reconnaissance has been an integral part of US services in the Federal Republic since they existed; For this purpose a network of partner services was set up early on. Konrad Adenauer already signed a surveillance reservation, which gave the former occupying powers the right to control domestic and foreign mail and telecommunications. The news magazine Der Spiegel reported in February 1989: That "apparently with the knowledge and approval of the federal government every beeper is tapped on West German soil" is considered certain by intelligence experts. Among the German services, the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) has always been the main partner for this practice ; In 1993 he was granted the exclusive right to exchange information with the partner services.

For years the NSA had an eavesdropping center directly above the Frankfurt main post office . After the main post office moved to a nearby building, it was also directly connected to the NSA there. For this purpose, the connection was established via armored telephone lines with the telecommunications node of the Bundespost in Frankfurt. The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) officially named itself as the tenant of the rooms. The NSA was also stationed in Germany at Field Station Berlin for years and served as part of the global spy network Echelon . In 1998 the United States Army Security Agency (USASA) Field Station Augsburg (now: Gablingen listening facility), in which the NSA was also active, was handed over to the Bundeswehr. NSA technicians also visit the system regularly after the handover, which the head of the monitoring system reported to the NSA committee of inquiry in September 2015. Immediately next to the Gablingen monitoring system is a backbone route for communication cables from carriers such as Level3 , Telefónica and Colt .

In Griesheim , a town near Darmstadt , is the Dagger Complex of the US Army. It is used by the NSA. Griesheim is located approx. 30 km from Frankfurt am Main and the DE-CIX Internet node located there . In the course of the revelations in the years 2013–2015 on the work of the NSA and the BND, the DE-CIX came more into focus, as it was assumed that the NSA was directly diverting data there. However, this is "technically impossible", according to the DE-CIX operators. However, it is likely that the NSA will, with the help of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act , oblige American network providers, which are connected to DE-CIX, to carry out the surveillance measures.

A new Consolidated Intelligence Center of the US Army is currently being built in Wiesbaden , which the NSA will also use in 2015. According to Edward Snowden's documents, "NSA eavesdropping specialists maintain their own communications center and a direct electronic connection to the NSA's data network ( SUSLAG , Special US Liaison Activity Germany) on the grounds of the Mangfall barracks near the former Bad Aibling station ." BND forwards connection data from phone calls, e-mails or SMS to the NSA. The name of the data source on the NSA side is Sigad US-987LA or -LB. According to the BND, this data is "cleaned of any personal data of Germans it may contain before being forwarded to the NSA."

facts and figures

The agency has its own intranet called "Webworld" and is involved in the Intelink intranet of the CIA , NGOs and other members of the intelligence community. Intelink expanded to other English-speaking countries in 2001. Another very fast communication network is the " Advanced Technology Demonstration Network ", which is limited to DIA , NASA and a few other institutions. The NSA's internal email system was called " Enlighten " , at least under Director Kenneth A. Minihan .

Data from 2006 and 2012:

  • 2006: 35,321 employees, including 15,986 members of the military and 19,335 civilians
  • 2012: 40,000 employees


  • 2006: $ 6.12 billion
  • 2012: $ 10 billion
  • 2013: $ 10.8 billion

Data from 2001:

  • Area: 4 km²
  • Buildings: 50 with a total office area of ​​200 ha
  • Roads: 50 km total length (they are named after personalities of the NSA)
  • Parking spaces: 48,000
  • Registered vehicles: 37,000
  • Electricity consumption: 409 GWh / year

For fiscal 1998, the official budget for all intelligence activities (including NSAs) was $ 26.7 billion / € 20.0 billion (1997: $ 26.6 billion / € 19.9 billion). In 1999 it was ordered by court order that “further disclosures of the budget could affect national security” and thus “may no longer be disclosed”.

According to estimates, the storage capacity of the NSA's large data processing center in the US state of Utah is expected to be up to one billion terabytes. That would be around 42 trillion filing cabinets. For comparison: the surveillance files collected by the Stasi filled 48,000 cabinets. The amount of data currently (August 2013) generated by NSA internet surveillance is 29 petabytes per day.

US intelligence budget 2013

According to a Washington Post report , the combined budget of all US intelligence services is currently $ 52.6 billion. The five largest authorities whose budgets Swiss Post has divided into the four categories of administration and maintenance , data acquisition , data processing and utilization and data analysis are listed below .

Name of the authority / program Budget
and maintenance
(Management and support)

data processing
and recycling
(Data processing and exploitation)


Total budget
Seal of the Central Intelligence Agency, svg Central Intelligence Agency 01.8 11.500 0.387 1.100 14.787
Seal of the US National Security Agency, svg National Security Agency 05.2 02.500 1.600 1.500 10.800
NRO.svg National Reconnaissance Program 01.8 06.000 2.500 - 10.300
US-NationalGeospatialIntelligenceAgency-2008Seal.svg National Geospatial Intelligence Program 02.0 00.537 1.400 0.973 04.910
Seal of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, svg General Defense Intelligence Program 01.7 01.300 0.228 1.200 04,428
total 12.5 21,837 6.115 4,773 45.225

Figures in billions of US dollars

Cooperation with other secret services

In 2010 the NSA paid the UK GCHQ £ 15.5 million for new developments at its Bude facility , where the German overseas cable TAT-14 has a stopover.


General decryption technique

The NSA is criticized by privacy advocates because they - u. a. Use the worldwide Echelon interception system to intercept a large part of foreign - and probably also domestic - communication traffic (including e-mails , faxes and telephone calls ) and use the latest technologies to check for certain key terms and voice profiles ( Carnivore project). In the opinion of the EU Parliament, the systematic tapping of communication lines in Europe is done with the main aim of exposing terror cells in Europe in order to then, if necessary, draw conclusions about impending terrorist attacks.

The NSA hit the headlines in connection with recent developments in the field of cryptography , especially asymmetric encryption algorithms . Omnipresent encryption, so the concern, would make eavesdropping difficult or impossible.

The NSA was significantly involved in the development of the now outdated DES symmetrical encryption algorithm and also contributed the know-how of the Escrowed Encryption Standard ( Clipper chip ). This was a process that was declared to have a “back door”, a predetermined breaking point, so to speak, which should allow government agencies to decrypt any data traffic at will . It was supposed to be introduced by law, but it did not. The corresponding legislative initiatives in the USA to regulate the use of encryption methods or to give government agencies a guarantee of decryption remained unsuccessful.

Communication systems with integrated encryption technology

A STU-III telephone with integrated encryption technology
  • EKMS Electronic Key Management System (electronic encryption system)
  • FNBDT Future Narrow Band Digital Terminal (Short-band digital console of the future)
  • Fortezza portable PC compatible encryption instrument
  • KL-7 ADONIS off-line rotor encryption machine (used from the 1950s to the 1980s)
  • KW-26 ROMULUS integrated telephone encryption machine electronic in-line teletype encryptor (used from the 1960s to the 1980s)
  • KW-37 JASON radio encryption device of the Navy (used from the 1960s to the 1980s)
  • KY-57 VINSON tactical voice changer for handheld radios
  • KG-84 data encryption machine
  • SINCGARS tactical handheld radio with integrated encryption device based on constant frequency change
  • STE security telephone equipment
  • STU-III telephone with integrated encryption is currently being replaced by the successor variant STE
  • TACLANE Tactical FASTLANE or Tactical Local Area Network Encryption, product line of a universal encryption device for Internet Protocol and Asynchronous Transfer Mode from General Dynamics




According to statistics from the American Patent and Trademark Office (US PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE, USPTO), the NSA was granted 191 patents between 1969 and 2008. They were registered in 55 different technical fields (patent classes), the two patent classes with the most registrations are "Cryptography" and "Semiconductor Device Manufacturing: Process". Since the NSA had already applied for patents before and after and some property rights were only transferred to the NSA after publication, the NSA's patent portfolio is larger.


Decryption technique

In 1999 Microsoft was accused of having implemented a predefined master key for asymmetrically encrypted connections in Windows NT , as one of the encryption components was named NSAKEY . These allegations were later corroborated, see the section on cooperation with telecommunications and software companies .

Heise online reports:

"As reported by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden , among others, the NSA collects encrypted data from the major Internet platforms for such purposes [subsequent decryption] on a large scale preventively."

Telephone surveillance

During the nomination of former NSA chief General Michael V. Hayden as the new CIA director in May 2006, USA Today published a report according to which the NSA has been collecting and processing the connection data of all telephone calls in the USA since the end of September 2001 without a court order. The Senate was also not informed about this activity. They are intended to extract suspicious patterns that are intended to facilitate the identification of terrorists . This went beyond the actions that had only become known a few months earlier, according to which the NSA had only observed international calls made by US citizens. The new revelations aroused great outrage and also led to legal actions against the companies involved (e.g. by the Electronic Frontier Foundation ), including AT&T , Verizon and BellSouth . Only the fourth large company, Qwest, refused to cooperate after the authorities were unable to provide evidence of the FISC's legal authority required by the company's management . Michael V. Hayden was originally responsible for carrying out the action. President George W. Bush's mandate to monitor the telephone activities of its own citizens was justified by the government with the need to combat terrorist groups.

"Cooperation" with telecommunications and software companies

In January 2007 the Washington Post reported on a cooperation between Microsoft and the NSA. Microsoft justified this cooperation in a confirmation that this had increased the security of their then youngest operating system, Windows Vista . On the other hand, due to its excellent market position, the company wanted to ensure the compatibility of the new product with the needs of the (American) federal government . According to Die Welt , Microsoft has for the first time publicly admitted a cooperation with a secret service and titled the latter "controls Windows Vista". The NSA's collaboration with Apple and Novell has also become known.

The German Federal Office for Information Security considered the cooperation of the companies with secret services against the tenor of the reporting to be "more exemplary than reprehensible" and emphasized the "advantages [of this procedure] for the end user and the company".

As early as 1999, the BBC reported on cryptographers who claimed that the NSA had found potential access to Microsoft's email service, Hotmail , in the Windows 95, 98, NT4 and 2000 operating systems . The report rejected the hypothesis that the cooperation had given the intelligence service access to all Windows operating systems shipped worldwide, as a conspiracy theory, but considered a separate encryption code for American government computers to be plausible.

In early 2010, the Washington Post announced that the search engine group Google wanted to work with the NSA to investigate hacker attacks on its communications networks. The attacks are said to have been carried out by Chinese hackers. It was assumed that this originated from the government of the People's Republic, but this has not yet been proven.

The NSA is a co-developer of the SELinux operating system and designed “SEAndroid” in early 2012 as a security improvement for Google's Android operating system . According to press reports, the NSA developments are to be adopted in the Android version according to version 4.2.

In June 2013 it became known that the NSA was to spy out the Internet on a large scale worldwide as part of the PRISM program by analyzing data from large corporations and their users. According to media reports, this includes Google, Microsoft , Apple , Facebook , Yahoo , Paltalk , YouTube , Skype and AOL , who have denied direct access by the NSA to their servers via a hitherto secret backdoor . The former security chief of Facebook now works for the NSA. At the beginning of November 2013, however, it turned out that the NSA, together with the British GCHQ , gained access to several million user accounts from Google and Yahoo via the espionage program "MUSCULAR", but without the knowledge of the corporations. In order to avoid legal consequences, the secret services hacked into servers in countries like Ireland, Finland, Belgium, Chile or Singapore.

Free software alternatives to Google applications affected by PRISM and for bypassing US surveillance have been booming since these revelations: There is a calendar before and after Snowden (Alex van Eesteren, Vice President of the search engine Ixquick ).

Outstanding NSA whistleblowers

Outstanding cryptologists

Cryptologists who played a prominent role at the NSA:

Media reception

Documentation and lectures


TV series


Computer games



A widespread Internet hoax says that entering " Illuminati ", ie "Itanimulli", in the address bar of a web browser together with the top-level domain " .com " would land you on the NSA website . This is indeed the case, however, these are not about an intention on the part of the NSA, but a joke of geeks John Fenley.

See also


  • James Bamford : NSA. America's most secret intelligence agency. Orell Füssli, Zurich 1986, ISBN 3-280-01670-3 . (Translation of the English original edition The Puzzle Palace. Inside the National Security Agency. Penguin, London 1983, ISBN 0-14-023116-1 ).
  • James Bamford: NSA. The anatomy of the most powerful intelligence agency in the world. 4th edition. Goldmann, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-442-15151-1 ( Goldmann 15151). (Translation of the original English edition Body of Secrets , 2001).
  • Arthur S. Hulnick: Fixing the Spy Machine. Preparing American intelligence for the twenty-first century. Praeger, Westport CT et al. a. 1999, ISBN 0-275-96652-6 .
  • Leslie Lewis, Roger Allen Brown, John Schrader: Top to Bottom an End to End. Improving the National Security Agency's strategic decision processes. EDGE, Santa Monica CA & a. 2005, ISBN 0-8330-3766-8 .
  • Paul Burkhardt, Chris Waring - NSA Research Directorate: An NSA Big Graph Experiment (PDF; 7.9 MB), Carnegie Mellon University, May 20, 2013
  • Marcel Rosenbach ; Holger Stark : The NSA complex. Edward Snowden and the path to total surveillance. 1st edition Munich: Dt. Verl.-Anst., 2014. ISBN 978-3-421-04658-1
  • Klaus Eichner, G. Schramm: Empire without riddles. What the GDR intelligence community already knew about the NSA . edition ost, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-360-01864-9 .
  • Edward Snowden: Permanent Record . Pan Books, 2019, ISBN 978-1-5290-3566-7 (English).

Web links

Commons : National Security Agency  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files



Individual evidence

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    " Notz : [gets upset.] What kind of shop is that? Do you know that there is a backbone route for communication cables directly at your location, where carriers such as Level3, Telefonica and Colt send their data by? Do you know that?"

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Coordinates: 39 ° 6 ′ 28 ″  N , 76 ° 46 ′ 15 ″  W.