National Security Agency (NSA)

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the most important intelligence agency in the United States. The NSA’s mission is to “protect U.S. information systems and to produce foreign signals intelligence information.” 

The NSA uses some of the world’s most advanced technology to execute its mission and has been advancing cybersecurity tool use since its founding. Read on to learn more about the NSA and its efforts to defend the national security of the United States.

What Is the NSA?

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a military-level and top-secret intelligence agency that helps the United States government protect its citizens. As part of the Department of Defense (DoD), the NSA’s main mission is to protect national security against foreign threats. 

As an intelligence agency, they collect information on foreign governments and terrorist groups. This intelligence can include anything from phone calls to emails and other online activities. 

The NSA was originally formed in 1952 after World War II. After the war, President Harry S. Truman wanted to form an agency that’s sole focus was gathering foreign intelligence and protecting American citizens from national security threats. The agency is headquartered out of Fort Meade, Maryland, and has an estimated annual budget of approximately $25 billion per year.

What Does the NSA Do?

The National Security Agency (NSA) is the largest intelligence agency in the United States. The agency is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and protecting information related to national security. More specifically, the agency gathers foreign intelligence and ensures secure communications within the United States.

The NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and information and data processing for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. They specialize in a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT). 

The primary mission of the NSA is to protect U.S. communication and information systems from online national security threats and cyber attacks. This protection is accomplished by discovering vulnerabilities before they are exploited by malicious actors.

The NSA’s activities are authorized by law through a variety of legislative measures, which include:

  • Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): This establishes that electronic surveillance can only be conducted with a court order.
  • Title 10 of U.S. Code Section 215: This allows for domestic spying on people who may not be suspected of any crime
  • Executive Order 12333: This gives agencies latitude to conduct mass surveillance without requiring approval from Congress or judicial oversight.

Who Works with the NSA?

The NSA works closely with numerous other agencies to protect the national security of the United States and its citizens. Although the NSA is part of the DoD, it is not a defined branch of the military because of its top-secret agency status. The NSA also works closely with many other government agencies and private companies to identify cyber attacks and mitigate their impact on critical infrastructure

The agency’s role in the fight against terrorism is well known. However, it provides similar support to other federal law enforcement agencies in the protection of their organizations from espionage by foreign intelligence services and their agents. The agency has been known to work with government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and law enforcement agencies such as the FBI. 

The NSA also often collaborates with military groups like U.S. Cyber Command and U.S. Cyber Command Joint Operations Center (JOC) to protect against cyber attacks from foreign nations and terrorist groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda. 

The NSA also works closely with other intelligence agencies such as the CIA, DIA, NGA, and NRO, which are responsible for gathering foreign intelligence through human sources or reconnaissance satellites, such as the Hubble Space Telescope.

Why Is the NSA Important to National Security?

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a critical part of the nation’s defense and intelligence missions for national security efforts. The agency provides foreign signals intelligence to U.S. decision-makers with information about international terrorists, cyber attacks, weapons proliferation, and other threats to national security. Their work has also extended to protect in scenarios like international drug and human trafficking.

Read next: Best Cybersecurity Software and Tools

Amanda Scheldt
Amanda Scheldt
Amanda is an Illinois-based Content Writer and Copywriter. While obtaining her degree in Cybersecurity, Amanda felt there was a lack of emphasis on education and awareness in the industry. Amanda has embraced this into her lifelong passion for writing by focusing her content with the goal to educate and inform. In addition to writing for Webopedia, Amanda enjoys writing for small businesses and tech startups.

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