Duties of the National Security Agency
The National Intelligence Agency is the government agency mandated with the task of cryptology for the United States of America. The mandate includes elements of signal intelligence as well as information assurance products and services. The former encompasses the collection, processing, analysis and dissemination of intelligence from foreign signals for the purposes of counterintelligence and military functions. The latter encompasses the prevention and protection of the national intelligence from unauthorized access by foreign nations.
The National Security Agency derives its roles and responsibilities from the Executive Order 123331, which in part vests the following responsibilities on the director2: the collection, processing, analysis, production and eventual dissemination of signal intelligence. It includes both information and data for purposes of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence. It acts as the National Manager for the National Security Systems in accordance to the laws and government policies in the United States of America. The prescription of security regulations covers the operating practices; the transmission, the management and the dissemination of intelligence signals and transfer of security materials under the scope of the Director of the National Security Agency. In 2008, Executive Order 12333 amendments incorporated the following additional responsibilities: conformity with the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the implementation of the 9/11 recommendations3, the deliberate and full integration of the intelligence community and maintenance of privacy and civil liberties in accordance with the constitution and other applicable laws of the United States of America.
Controversy in performing the duties
Executive Order 12333 outlines the manner in which the National Security Agency ought to execute its functions. One underlying provisions relates to the Congressional oversight provided in the general provisions in part three. Therefore, the Congress is expected to provide an oversight role guided by the applicable laws. While the responsibility of the agency is nonpolitical, congress has the tendency of approaching its oversight roles politically. This occasionally places the agency in conflict with congress. The controversies that develop can only solved politically by congress. It should be noted that congress has on a number of occasions amended the laws of the United States of America to resolve conflicts arising out of the executor measures by the agency. In addition, the functioning of the agency requires the cooperation and assistance of the presidency. The agency has at times been compelled into using unorthodox or prima facie unconstitutional and illegal mechanisms to track intelligence. This has at times deviated from the expectations of the public and the office of the presidency. It should be appreciated that Executive order 12333 that mandates the agency director to collect, process and disseminate intelligence does contemplate the use of clandestine and illegal mechanisms in the acquisition of the information. The order essentially gives priority to the national security of the United States of America and thereby, by omission, limits the rights and freedoms of the potential or suspected aggressor. This occasions controversies from the public. The public in their liberal approach to societal concepts expects their privacy and security to be unlimited in accordance with the constitutional rights of the land. This conflict inevitably leads to controversies. It ought to be appreciated that, in times of such controversy, it is the presidency that bares the political responsibility. The public expects the presidency to use his powers to override the agency’s powers. Ultimately, the agency is guided by the law and the remedy for any controversies lies in the amendment of the laws.
Aid, Matthew M. The Secret Sentry:The Untold History of the National Security Agency. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2010.
Executive Order 12333. https://www.cia.gov/about-cia/eo12333.html (accessed August 24, 2012).
Mission . http://www.nsa.gov/about/mission/index.shtml (accessed August 24, 2012).