Spies R Us.
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 27 Sep 100 11:44:07 -0700
Subject: Spies R Us.
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Monday September 25 8:39 AM ET
Spy Agency Offers Rare Glimpse Inside
FORT MEADE, Md. (Reuters) - The super-secret National Security Agency (NSA),
which eavesdrops on communications worldwide as part of U.S. spying
operations, opened its doors on Saturday to offer outsiders a rare glimpse
of facilities that test antennas and print nuclear code books.
About 16,500 employees and their families were expected at the first "Family
Day" since 1996 held at NSA headquarters, about 25 miles outside Washington,
as the spy agency makes a greater effort to inform Americans about its
"American people need an image of this agency so its identity is not a
vacuum," NSA Director Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden told reporters.
There was the "anechoic chamber," which looked like a science-fiction movie
set, with blue foam spikes of different sizes poking out from the floor,
walls and ceiling of the 42-foot-high room.
It is echo-free and one of five at NSA for testing antennas used to collect
information. The antenna revolves on a high pedestal at one end, while
information is transmitted to it from the other end of the room.
The Air Force has a similar room that is big enough to test an entire
airplane, an NSA official said.
"Each cone is sized to absorb a different frequency," said the official
who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Areas opened to visitors were sanitized to ensure no classified material
was lying around.
A 66,000-square-foot printing plant produces code books -- 160 million
pages a year -- used in U.S. military operations.
Nuclear code books for use in the event the United States orders a nuclear
strike are produced about four times a month at the moment, compared with
nearly every day during the 1991 Gulf War.
The book is enclosed inside a sealed plastic pouch that has a unique pattern
of pink splotches and is puffy because of air inside.
If there is any change in the package such as the amount of air inside or
the design of the splotches, which is videotaped before being sent out,
the codes are considered compromised.
"We'll go back and see if the splatter diagram is the same. We've got a
video of the package," said Dan Shirko, chief of publishing.
Reminders of the need for security were all around. In the cafeteria, one
sign read, "Don't spill the beans pardner, the steaks are too high. No
© 2000 Peter Langston