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What Was The NSA Doing Giving Reporters ‘Seminars’?

0927NSA.jpgIt turns out that the National Security Agency has been holding “seminars” in recent years to discourage reporters from covering sensitive stories. The New York Sun got their hands on the course outlines and, yeah, the seminars were exactly what you would think:

The half-day classes featured high-ranking NSA officials highlighting objectionable passages in published stories and offering “an innocuous rewrite” that officials said maintained the “overall thrust” of the articles but omitted details that could disclose the agency’s techniques, according to course outlines obtained by The New York Sun.

The seminars took place at NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, MD (above) and they know journalists well. Give the journos free food, access to high ranking officials and an ego massage… and who knows? Maybe you’ll have some success:

The NSA’s seminars, delivered over tea and pastries, and accompanied by a clip from “Top Gun,” seemed designed to elicit a chummy atmosphere and to highlight commonalities between reporters and the agency’s electronic sleuths. “Reporters go to great lengths to protect their sources, as do we,” one talking point for the classes said. “We need your help.”

During the meetings at NSA HQ, officials showed reporters examples of articles they felt were “sensitive” and should not have been published in their original form. These include:

  • A 1999 USA Today piece by Jack Kelley that reported government officials used a “reconnaissance satellite” to intercept telephone calls from Osama bin Laden and prevent attacks on American embassies.
  • A 1998 short by Beely Tucker for Knight Ridder reporting on how an “exhaustive review of electronic intercepts of the traffic on bin Laden’s communications network” led to evidence of OBL’s involvement in the Kenyan and Tanazanian embassy bombings.
  • A 1998 New York Times piece by Steven Lee Myers reporting that the government had been “eavesdropping on conversations between Mr. bin Laden.”

    It’s great that the struggling Sun got their hands on the course syllabi… and reporter Josh Gerstein wrote an excellent piece. But we want to know more details. Did you attend any of these workshops or related events? Either e-mail us or use the anonymous tip box to the right. Anonymnity is assured.

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