Making conversation at Thanksgiving can be hard, but apparently it's especially hard if you're an employee of the National Security Agency. So the agency has stepped in to solve the problem, issuing this list of approved talking points for fending off hostile relatives, unearthed by reporter Kevin Gosztola. If an NSA staffer was confronted by a privacy-minded relative over the long weekend, the document would keep them from being caught at a loss for words.
Some of the suggested points designed to deflect dinnertime interrogations:
- NSA programs protect Americans and our Allies. As an example, they have helped to understand and disrupt 54 terrorist events since 9/11: 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia and 5 in Africa. Thirteen of those had a homeland nexus.
- NSA analysts do not decide what topics to work. They respond directly to requirements driven by the President's Intelligence Priorities Framework and managed by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
- NSA does not and will not steal industry secrets in order to give US companies a competitive advantage.
- NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that's what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world.
- More than 6,000 NSA cryptologists have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Twenty have died in the line of duty helping our troops accomplish their missions.
- The men and women of NSA take an oath to the Constitution. As private citizens themselves, NSA employees are acutely aware of the importance of upholding the Fourth Amendment, and they uphold it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- We encourage the American public to work with us to define the way ahead in balancing transparency and national security. We embrace public dialogue.
The document does not mention leaker Edward Snowden, instead focusing on the agency's military ties, broad oversight, and track record in the fight against terrorism. One bullet point claims the NSA has foiled 54 terrorist attacks globally since 9/11, although these figures have been disputed. Another passage emphasizes the agency's commitment to transparency and popular approval, despite the vast number of secret programs which have recently come to light. "We encourage the American public to work with us to define the way ahead in balancing transparency and national security," the document reads. "We embrace public dialogue."