Good Essay On The National Security Agency (NSA)

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Intelligence, Security, United States, Netherlands, Nation, Agency, National Security, Information

Pages: 8

Words: 2200

Published: 2020/10/12

Formation of the Agency

The United States has been conveying and intercepting messages of a confidential and encrypted nature through codes and other means since as far back as the War for American Independence. The transmission of cryptologic messages evolved at the advent of radio transmissions during World War I when intelligence from foreign nations was beginning to be followed and intercepted.
During World War II (WWII), the United States successfully broke the codes of the Germans and Japanese. This garnered US success “against the German U-Boat threat in the North Atlantic and victory at the Battle of Midway in the Pacific” (Howe, n.d.). This breakthrough in intelligence communications would pave the way for the United States to produce the most technologically advanced intelligence agency in the world. On November 4, 1952, the National Security Agency (NSA) was founded by President Harry Truman.

Reason for Agency Formation

Prior to its inception, the United States had various agencies and organizations in place that implemented security protocols and controls among the armed forces. Some of these were the US Communications Intelligence Board, the National Military Establishment, the National Security Council and the Armed Forces Security Agency. Each branch of the armed services had its own military intelligence divisions as well and all worked in conjunction to protect the safety and best interests of the nation’s citizens.
The inspiration for the NSA dates as far back as 1917 when the US Army “created a Cipher Bureau in its Military Intelligence Division” (Howe, n.d.). The bureau assisted the American Expeditionary Forces headed to France with radio intelligence. As this level of intelligence grew and evolved through WWI and WWII, so did the need for a means of containing and organizing it all into one place. It had become apparently clear that the intersection of various government and non-governmental agencies needed to be incorporated into a sole organization due to the national responsibility each held. Thus, the National Security Agency was born.

Current and Future Goals

The NSA’s core function is comprised of highly trained individuals who provide cryptologic intelligence to United States military leaders and key decision-makers within the government. It is where America’s codebreakers and codemakers effectively deal with sensitive data and various forms of cryptologic intelligence that pose a threat to our country.
In 1972, the NSA developed the Central Security Service (CSS). The CSS works alongside the NSA to provide cryptologic intelligence capabilities to each branch of the US armed forces. Additionally, together they enable Network Warfare in their mission to defeat terrorist organizations both domestically and internationally. The NSA/CSS primarily provides support and critical confidential information and intelligence to government-wide organizations and agencies. This includes the United States Department of Defense, and certain allies and partners within the coalition. There are also industry organizations and the Intelligence Community that is privy to the resources offered by the NSA/CSS.
Within the NSA are two core missions; the Information Assurance mission and the Signals Intelligence mission. The Information Assurance mission works to protect “foreign adversaries from gaining access to sensitive or classified national security information” ( The Signals Intelligence mission disseminates information that is intercepted and processed “from foreign signals for intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and to support military operations” ( Both the NSA/CSS are responsible for the National Security Systems and reports directly to the National Intelligence Director and Secretary of Defense.
As part of the NSA’s ongoing mission to provide a security and intelligence infrastructure on a national and international level, future goals have been generated to drive the future of national security both home and abroad. On the NSA’s website, visitors will find that the primary goal is that of “global cryptologic dominance through responsive presence and network advantage” ( The United States has proven its dominance by having the best cryptologic system in the world that has effectively thwarted planned attacks on our soil by international terrorist organizations as well as domestic terrorism. The NSA is committed to adhering to the following core values: learning, innovation, collaboration, fairness, accountability, lawfulness, integrity, honesty, and loyalty.
As part of that commitment, the NSA has implemented five goals that currently steer the overall mission of the agency. Goal 1 is to “continue to succeed in today’s operations” ( This includes working with U. S. allies to secure cyberspace freedoms while intercepting suspected terrorist activity and securing U. S. nuclear weapons. Goal 2 mission is “preparing for the future” ( This entails expanding and broadening current infrastructures to be more secure, anticipating forthcoming needs, inventing new technologies, and forging new partnerships and sustaining existing ones. Goal 3 focus is by “enhancing and leading an expert workforce” ( Building and growing the workforce coupled with providing leadership and learning opportunities, enhances “security, counterintelligence and force protection” ( Goal 4 focus hinges on “implementing best business practices” ( The ways this is achieved is through implementation of cost-effective measures and best business practices for fiscal accountability and strategic maneuvering. Goal 5 speaks to “manifesting principled performance” ( This is the most recent goal established by the agency. It builds on and encompasses the core missions of the other four goals by continuing to build an organization based on integrity, trust and transparency.

Relationship with Executive Branch

The NSA/CSS works closely with the United States Department of Defense and the United States Intelligence Committee as a vital component to both. The primary role carried out is to protect national security system infrastructures. It also works with the U. S. Department of Homeland Security and U. S. Cyber Command. Together all these agencies act as a team in fighting against cybercrime.
In the wake of the digital age, cybercrime is at an all-time high. The NSA/CSS provides technical expertise to the aforementioned departments. It stays ahead of the curve by being on top of potential threats to the U. S. National Security System and the United States. Additionally, the NSA/CSS is constantly updating and creating new and improved means of intelligence, products and services to face cyber threats head-on as they present themselves on the global scale.

Brief Biography of Agency Head

The NSA/CSS agencies are headed by Admiral Michael S. Rogers, United States Navy. He also presently serves as Commander of U. S. Cyber Command. He has served in both positions since April, 2014. Rogers previously served as a flag officer, held the position of Director of Intelligence for the U.S. Pacific Command, as well as Joint Chief of Staff. He was also previously Commander, of the U. S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. TENTH Fleet.
Rogers is a native of Chicago, Illinois, and graduated in 1981 from Auburn University. His vast list of accomplishments is quite extensive; having been commissioned as a naval officer by the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, following graduation from college. During his time of service, he’s spearheaded numerous cryptologic missions both afloat in the Mediterranean and the Arabian Gulf. He has also served in leadership roles in “J3 Computer Network Attack/Defense and IO Operations shops” (

Supreme Court Case

Operation 'Piet': the Joseph Sidney Petersen Jr. Case
Brief Background
Perhaps one of the most historical cases in NSA history is that of Joseph Sidney Petersen, Jr. He was an international, secret spy, who was hired by the NSA and later arrested in 1954, and charged with espionage for obtaining and providing the Netherlands with U. S. “top secret codeword documents” (Wiebes, 2008). The uncovering of Petersen’s dirty deeds would go on to have a global impact and strain intelligence relations between the United States and the Netherlands.
Petersen, was picked up by the U. S. Department of Defense in 1941. He was hired on as a research analyst and his main job was to provide communications analysis with the U. S. Army Signal Corps. During his tenure with the department, he came to know Colonel J. A. Verkuijl, who was a native of the Netherlands East Indies. Verkuijl was a leading cryptologist. The two men grew close and began to share their vast knowledge of cryptology. As their friendship expanded, trust between the two was also increasing. “Petersen would forward more and more intelligence to Verkuijl” (Wiebes, 2008).
Colleagues within the Department began to grow suspicious of Verkuijl and had him removed from Arlington, VA, where he and Petersen, were stationed. Verkuijl realized this would curtail his ongoing contact with Petersen. He took the necessary preventative measures before his transfer, unbeknownst to the War Department, and “introduced Petersen to Giacomo Constantin Stuyt, head of the coding section at the Royal Dutch embassy” (Wiebes, 2008). Being a colleague of Verkuijl’s, Stuyt, seemed to pick up where Verkuijl left off by fully immersing himself into the myriad of top secret details underhandedly. He convinced top officials within the Netherland government through an exhaustive report, that Britain was to blame for intercepting Dutch intelligence and had delivered it to Washington.
As time wore on, Verkuijl re-established himself as a major player in the cryptologist game. He was appointed as “director of the CCB, he also became head the communications intelligence (Comint) division of Dutch Naval Intelligence” (Wiebes, 2008). Petersen remained committed to secretly supplying intelligence to Verkuijl. Additionally, Petersen funneled top secret intelligence to Stuyt. Petersen also began sending intelligence to Andre Elsakkers, who had been named as the newest case officer of the embassy in the Netherlands. Petersen turned over detailed U. S. related information regarding the Dutch which consisted of codes, a paper written by the NSA’s very own, William Friedman, entitled, “Analysis of the Hagelin Cryptograph, Type B-21” (Wiebes, 2008), and other related classified information revealing plans pertaining to the Dutch. The more information Petersen provided to the Dutch, the more they pressed him further. It would only be a matter of time before Petersen would become “engaged as an agent of Netherlands intelligence” (Wiebes, 2008); continuing to work closely with Verkuijl, Stuyt, and Elsakkers.

Procedural History

After an extensive investigation, Petersen was arrested on October 9, 1954, and “indicted on three counts” (Barthelmes, 1954). He had managed to work as a Dutch spy for a period of ten years by the time of his arrest. Petersen was finally caught when his business and personal relationship with Verkuijl raised suspicions. He was released on $10,000 bond, awaiting trial. In a statement, Petersen pled not guilty and claimed that he had done nothing wrong.
Petersen was brought to trial in January, 1955. He “admitted to storing secret documents in his Arlington apartment” (Barthelmes, 1955), of which he planned to use to create a “code training program” (Barthelmes, 1955). Petersen further admitted to providing information to Verkuijl, Stuyt, and Elsakkers. He was found guilty of all charges on January 4, 1955, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Analysis of the Decision

Petersen’s sentencing was less than the proposed 10 years and $10,000 fine he could have incurred if he had been held to the highest extent of the law. Two of the charges against him, “obtaining classified defense information” (Taylor, 1955), and that of, “unlawfully removing official records” (Taylor, 1955), were eventually dropped by the Federal government.
Several conclusions were made by the court. There was an uncertainty that the intelligence that Petersen passed along to the Dutch remained in their hands solely. The enormity of the information supplied to the Dutch was enough to keep them well-versed in U. S. intelligence activity. The media attention surrounding the case had exposed the U. S. Comint and its sustainability moving forward. Perhaps the most glaring of all conclusions was the exposure of key intelligence individuals to the public and thus, drawing scrutiny and attention to the National Security Agency as a whole. Further conclusions by the court deemed that all information retrieved by Petersen was compromised; placing the U. S. security at great risk.
Other considerations found that the existing polygraph testing procedures were not enough to detect even the slightest misstep by Petersen. Based on the court’s findings, the Federal Government, along with the NSA, were faced with a myriad of questions that were based in large part as to how they would minimize the damage done by Petersen on a global scale. Petersen’s downfall did not come without its tremendous impact on “American-Dutch intelligence operation” (Wiebes, 2008). It was much too late for damage control.


The National Security Agency (NSA) has made incredible strides since the Petersen espionage scandal of 1954. That, by and large, was a steep learning curve for the agency in their ability to not only know who was working for them, but how one’s loyalty, or lack thereof, stacked up when faced with the temptation of colluding with the enemy.
It is interesting to note that Petersen appeared oblivious to the intense nature of his crimes. He very much landed in the right place at the wrong time. His efforts to conspire with the Dutch appeared to come from a place of doing a good service for his fellow man, a.k.a, Verkujil, rather than seeing it as being unethical and turning his back on the U. S. One can merely speculate that perhaps his reasons for conspiring with the Dutch were not motivated in the usual way, but rather stemmed from psychological nuances.
The two charges that were eventually dropped by the Federal government should have remained intact. Petersen may have feigned cluelessness regarding his actual role in it all, but no doubt he was well aware of what he was doing. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) wanted to prosecute Petersen to the fullest extent of the law much to the Court’s chagrin.
Fast forward to our modern day, had Petersen’s undermining of U. S. intelligence occurred today, the high level of intelligence capabilities that exist would have stopped him dead in his tracks much sooner than the ten years before he was caught. Suffice it to say, the NSA has continued to work toward an ongoing mission of maintaining its leadership role on a global scale in fighting cybercrime and the like. With our ever-changing world and the threat of terror increases, it poses quite the challenge to stay one step ahead for the sake of protecting the United States and our allies. Security breaches have increased as cybercrime has escalated. This is not expected to slow down as society continues to use the cyber world at every turn. The digital age is here with no end in sight. Now more than ever the NSA and its affiliates, both domestically and internationally, must continue to band together to fight cybercrime and bring those involved to justice. The NSA must remain committed and diligent to continually expanding our cyber infrastructure by developing new products and services that will enhance, secure, and protect the U. S. in every imaginable way. No stone can be left unturned and nothing can be taken for granted if the NSA has any hope of continuing in its missions on a worldwide scale.


Wes Barthelmes, S. R. (1954, Oct 21). Code expert indicted on 3 counts. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
Wes Barthelmes, S. R. (1955, Jan 05). Petersen sentenced to 7 years in prison. The Washington Post and Times Herald (1954-1959) Retrieved from
Howe, G. F. (n.d.). The early history of the NSA. Cryptologic Spectrum. Retrieved from (2010, June). NSA/CSA strategy. Retrieved from
Taylor, R. L. (1955, May 5). Top Secret Eider, Memorandum. National Security Agency: Organization and Operations. (1945-2009). Retrieved from
Wiebes, C. (2008). Operation 'piet': The Joseph Sidney Petersen Jr. spy case, a dutch 'mole' inside the national security agency. Intelligence and National Security, 23(4), 488-535. doi:

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