Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cryptologic Heritage

National Cryptologic Museum
The National Security Agency (NSA) has been in the news a great deal over the past few months.  The unwanted publicity has created fertile grounds for writers wanting to exploit the public's interest in the organization and the government's interest in our emails and cell phone conversations. 

The National Security Agency website provides a great deal of information on its mission and activities.  Its main task, at least in my view, is to "Collect (including through clandestine means), process, analyze, produce, and disseminate signals intelligence information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes to support national and departmental missions."

What is Cryptology
At the heart of the Agency is "Global Cryptologic Dominance" in order "to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies under all circumstances."  NSA's role is more than obtaining data and another important task is preventing attacks on various systms.  Cybersecurity is a critical issue that confronts all Americans.  Hacking into credit card records such as occurred at Target during the Christmas shopping season is of concern to all Americans and a very good reason we should support NSA's efforts.  Code breaking and obtaining data is of course critical in the fight against terrorism and actions by rogue nations such as Syria, Iran, and North Korea.  The tradeoff between personal liberty and government oversight of its citizens is the subject of serious debate.  Frankly, I feel safer with strong measures that could deter another event like 9/11.

Cryptologic Treasures
There are several places where the public can learn more about NSA's "Cryptologic Heritage."  I recently had the opportunity to visit one of these sites, the National Cryptologic Museum.  It is a fascinating place and one that you may wish to add to your agenda when visiting Washington.  The Photo Gallery contains downloadable images of exhibits and cryptologic devices.

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