what’s in a name: the national security agency

The National Security Agency is a part of the U.S. government that spies on people. Some of those people live in other countries and some of them live in the United States.

Usually when governments spy, they do so for one or more of the following reasons: 1. To protect citizens from hostile foreigners; 2. To make sure its own citizens aren’t planning to overthrow the government; 3. To find people who are criticizing the government and encourage them to stop criticizing the government (through intimidation or violence).

We don’t work for the National Security Agency, so we can’t say for sure which of those objectives are on the agency’s mind while it’s spying on everybody. But we did notice that NSA doesn’t stand for National Spying Agency — whoever named it slipped the word “security” in there and didn’t mention spying at all.

Even though everybody knows the NSA is a spying organization, the NSA would rather not have “spying” be the first word out of our mouths when we talk about it. The word NSA people would prefer we use is “security,” as if spying and safety are practically the same thing.

We’ve noticed that when people don’t want you to mention what they do, it’s usually because they don’t want you to think about it.