The Intercept continues its work analyzing SID Today, the NSA's internal employee newsletter, with a fresh release of 262 articles — these are in addition to the 166 articles published last spring.
The SID Today articles are part of the trove of documents that the whistleblower Edward Snowden gave to journalists for analysis and potential publication.
The new release documents the NSA's own internal struggles to keep its employees from blabbing in restaurants near the agency's Fort Meade HQ; a profile of the analyst who figured out that public sources — the web and news media — could be useful to the spies' mission; and, most interestingly, an article confronting the reality that the US military was launching lethal strikes against targets based on signals intelligence data, after a review process lasting only "minutes." Also in the release is the revelation that Ronald Regan "cavalierly leaked sensitive NSA documents for political purposes.
A top NSA official disclosed in a January 2004 SIDtoday column that U.S. forces were "dropping bombs" based entirely on signals intelligence, the type of intelligence collected by the agency. He then implied that the American officers involved risked prosecution for war crimes.
Charles Berlin, chief of staff in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, recounted an anecdote about a former commander of his who, in one session in the winter of 1995-96, personally reviewed more than 100 possible airstrike targets in the Balkans. The commander's motivation, Berlin said, was to protect his underlings from being prosecuted for war crimes, and his actions "really brought home the concepts of responsibility and accountability."
"For us today this lesson is especially important," he added. "The planning cycle for dropping a bomb has compressed from a day to minutes and the criterion for the aiming point has less and less review."
"As many of you know, our forces in Iraq are dropping bombs on the strength of SIGINT alone. We are proud of their confidence in us, but have you ever considered the enormous risk the commanders are assuming in this regard? Are you ready to share that risk?"
DROWNING IN INFORMATION: NSA REVELATIONS FROM 262 SPY DOCUMENTS [Micah Lee and Margot Williams/The Intercept]