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NSA Full Form

NSA Stands for National Security Agency. Read to know more about NSA.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a US government intelligence agency that is part of the US Department of Defence and is led by the director of national intelligence (DNI).

From its headquarters in Maryland, the intelligence agency, led by the director of the National Security Agency, conducts global monitoring, collecting, and processing of information and data. The National Security Agency (NSA) is responsible for intelligence data collection and security, and unlike the FBI, its agents do not make arrests. Instead, the National Security Agency (NSA) provides intelligence to the military.

President Harry S. Truman established the National Security Agency (NSA) in 1952 for the execution of signals intelligence (SIGINT). Signals intelligence (SIGINT) is the process of acquiring information via intercepting signals – either through direct human communication or by electronic signals that are not directly employed in conversation.

In 1972, the Central Security Service (CSS) was founded by presidential instruction to provide cryptologic support, information, and assistance to the military cryptologic community. The National Security Agency Central Security Service (NSA/CSS) is made up of the NSA and the CSS. According to the government, the National Security Agency is to build a more cohesive cryptologic effort with the armed forces and work with top military and civilian authorities to identify and act on significant military-related challenges in support of national and tactical intelligence objectives.

The NSA’s workforce is classified, however according to the Black Budget, the top-secret budget of US intelligence organisations, the NSA employed 14,950 military people in 2013 with a $10.8 billion budget. The operational components are divided into three categories. Information Assurance (IA) is in charge of safeguarding sensitive national security data. Computer Network Operations (CNO) prepares the agency for probable network warfare with cyberterrorism organisations, while Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) collects, processes, and disseminates foreign signals intelligence.


The NSA’s beginnings may be traced back to early military cryptography during World War I. The Cipher Bureau was established within the United States Army to aid with the security of military communications. Due to successes in obtaining military secrets of the Axis alliance, the US Army and Navy communications intelligence sections grew throughout World War II. The National Security Act of 1947 established the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Council, which centralised the intelligence sector. In 1949, the Army and Navy’s cryptology agencies were merged to form the Armed Forces Security Agency, which was the forerunner to the National Security Agency.

President Harry Truman founded the National Security Agency (NSA) on November 4, 1952. Until 1975, the agency was kept a secret by the federal government. It was created only to monitor foreign communications, but it was exposed in the 1970s that the NSA kept a list of persons to watch, including American citizens with anti-war sentiments and unfavourable international connections. Senate hearings chaired by Sen. Frank Church (D-ID) resulted in the enactment of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which needed warrants from a FISA court to conduct surveillance within the United States.

Roles and responsibilities of NSA

In support of national security and foreign policy, the NSA exists to maintain the integrity of national communications systems and to gather and process information about foreign adversaries’ secret communications.

It serves two purposes in maintaining national security:

  1. NSA analysts collect and decode intelligence from a variety of electronic sources, including phone calls, email, movies, pictures, stored data, and social networking sites.
  2. The National Security Agency (NSA) uses newly discovered intelligence to safeguard the nation’s classified data and national security systems, which are vital to intelligence, military operations, and other government activities, from unauthorized access and tampering by both domestic and foreign adversaries.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch signed new instructions in October 2017 allowing the NSA to send intercepted conversations and raw SIGINT to 16 government departments, including the FBI and CIA, before applying domestic and foreign privacy protections.

NSA employees include analysts, engineers, physicists, linguists, computer scientists, researchers, customer relations specialists, security officers, data flow experts, managers, and administrative and clerical assistants, despite the fact that the organization’s number of employees and budget are classified.

It also claims to be the country’s and arguably the world’s largest employment of mathematicians. Mathematicians at the NSA/CSS undertake two key tasks for the agency: they create cryptography systems to protect US communications and they look for flaws in adversary systems.

NSA programs

Few NSA surveillance programs

PRISM- PRISM, the most well-known of the NSA’s operations, is aimed at gathering data from nine key Silicon Valley tech companies: Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Paltalk, Skype, YouTube, Apple, and AOL. It gathered emails, file transfers, photographs, voice recordings, and other information.

FAIRVIEW- The NSA has access to enormous amounts of international internet traffic travelling via domestic US networks thanks to AT&T’s aid. For decades, the NSA is said to have worked closely with US telecom companies.

BLARNEY- This is a FAIRVIEW-affiliated international version of the PRISM programme. The National Security Agency (NSA) uses Blarney to build relationships with international telecom carriers in order to acquire access to their customer data.

TRAFFICTHIEF, PINWALE, and MARINA- These three programmes are largely unknown. TRAFFICTHIEF, on the other hand, is described as containing “information from a subset of tasked strong-selectors,” according to The Daily Dot. PINWALE maintains “user activity metadata with front end full take feeds and backend selected feeds, whereas MARINA stores “user activity metadata with front end full take feeds and backend selected feeds.”

BOUNDLESS INFORMANT. This is supposed to be a metric for how well the other programmes are performing. According to Snowden’s slides, the NSA acquired about 100 billion pieces of intelligence worldwide in a single month in 2012. During the same time period, the US collected three billion pieces of intelligence. An email or a phone conversation, for example, would very certainly be considered intelligence.


The communications-security and intelligence-gathering efforts of the United States are carried out by a Defence Department organisation. The NSA regulates certain communications channels and operates a national computer security centre in support of its defence mission, in addition to prescribing and regulating certain security principles and procedures for the US government and performing certain foreign intelligence operations.

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Frequently asked questions

Get answers to the most common queries related to the UPSC Examination Preparation.

Is it necessary to be a US citizen to apply to NSA?

Answer: Yes. Only nationals of the United States are eligible to work for the NSA.

What is the mission of the National Security Agency?

Answer: The National Security Organization (NSA) is a United States intelligence agency that is part of the Departme...Read full

What agencies are part of the National Security Apparatus?

Answer: The Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial-Intellige...Read full

Is the National Security Agency (NSA) a civilian or military organisation?

Answer: The National Security Agency, like the Department of State and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has its ...Read full

Is the NSA equipped with Special Forces?

Answer: The NSA’s lesser footprint in overseas conflict zones necessitates a smaller security force, but one t...Read full