The NSA Has Their Own ‘Dear Abby’

PIC: Rob Speed (CC)

PIC: Rob Speed (CC)

One of Edward Snowden’s leaks revealed this incredible bit of absurdity: The agency has its own “Dear Abby” type advice column titled “Ask Zelda”. Incredibly enough, one of the published columns is a response to an NSA employee who complains about a boss and his team of “snitches” spying on casual conversations with coworkers. For an extra dose of irony, check out the department the employee works in…

Via The Intercept.

What if the National Security Agency had its own advice columnist? What would the eavesdroppers ask about?

You don’t need to guess. An NSA official, writing under the pen name “Zelda,” has actually served at the agency as a Dear Abby for spies. Her “Ask Zelda!” columns, distributed on the agency’s intranet and accessible only to those with the proper security clearance, are among the documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The columns are often amusing – topics include co-workers falling asleep on the job, sodas being stolen from shared fridges, supervisors not responding to emails, and office-mates who smell bad. But one of the most intriguing involves a letter from an NSA staffer who complains that his (or her) boss is spying on employees.

In the letter, which Zelda published in a column on September 9, 2011, the employee calls himself “Silenced in SID” – referring to the Signals Intelligence Directorate, the heart of the NSA’s surveillance operations. Zelda’s column, headlined “Watching Every Word in Snitch City,” offers an ironic insight into a spy agency where the spies apparently resent being spied upon.

“Dear Zelda,” the letter of complaint begins:

Here’s the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it’s mostly work related). He has his designated “snitches” and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the “designees” in a really awkward position; plus, we’re all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented.

Read the rest at The Intercept.

8 Comments on "The NSA Has Their Own ‘Dear Abby’"

  1. Anarchy Pony | Mar 7, 2014 at 9:57 pm |

    It’s just too funny.

  2. Adam's Shadow | Mar 7, 2014 at 10:41 pm |

    If you work for the NSA and complain about office “snitches,” you fit the perfect definition of a tool.

  3. “But on privacy, Zelda is surprisingly liberal . . . ”

    This is more common at NSA than you’d think. Gov’t and upper management brags about all the intelligent young people making up America’s formidable cyber divisions, but they don’t realize most of these guys just needed a job and have no particular loyalty to anything. Snowden was only an outlier in that he acted. There are so many 20-something cleared IC workers who despise what they do–I expect it’d be the vast majority if not for compartmentalization. If you live in the DC/Baltimore area, you don’t have much choice but to do this kind of work.

    I have no doubt that “Zelda” knew exactly what they were alluding to.

    • Excellent observation. None of these various “evil entities” like the NSA et al are idiologically monolithic. That’s why you’ve got leaks, whistle blowers, competition between agencies, as well as internal conflicts within the agencies themselves.
      This fact is almost always forgotten or ignored by most conspiracy theorists. That’s why their theories seem so cartoonish a lot of the time.
      I see an intersting dynamic at play here. You’ve got these amazing capabilities for survaillance and control at the same time that the people wielding these technologies, at least have access to information, that tends to decondition them from their own ideology.
      A lot of people swallowing a lot of red pills out there . . .

  4. BuzzCoastin | Mar 8, 2014 at 12:52 am |

    just because your watching them
    doesn’t mean you’re not justifiably paranoid

  5. Tchoutoye | Mar 8, 2014 at 2:02 am |

    Next on Pierre Omidyar’s publication: A Day in the Life of Gen. Keith B. Alexander. His favorite breakfast, his golf handicap…

  6. Matt Staggs | Apr 24, 2014 at 7:19 pm |

    Of course! Sorry about that, Rob. I’d be happy to do so. Just an oversight on my part. Thanks for the heads up.

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