National Security Agency
The National Security Agency (NSA) is a United States intelligence organization charged with the task of monitoring, collecting, decoding, and analyzing information from around the globe. The NSA is also responsible for the protection of U.S. government communications. In recent years, the NSA has come under heavy criticism for its use of warrantless collection of various communications, such as cellphone calls and email.
The NSA traces it origins to the Signal Security Agency, created during World War II to capture and decipher Nazi communications. Following the war, that agency was reorganized under the Defense Department, and formally established as the NSA by President Truman in 1952, although the agency’s very existence remained classified for years.
Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the NSA initiated a series of new programs in order to track new Internet and cellular communications. The NSA was now capable of vast data mining, and cyber-warfare capabilities, such as using malware to destroy Iran’s nuclear program. By 2013, concerns over the NSA’s spying led to former contractor Edward Snowden to disclose the extent of the National Security Agency’s activities. The Snowden revelations showed that the NSA had intercepted telephone and Internet communications of over one billion people around the globe, including various world leaders. Many of these programs were conducted without Congressional oversight.