NSA recruitment drive goes horribly wrong
the National Security
Agency called at the University of
Wisconsin on a recruitment drive.
Attending the session was Madiha R
Tahir , a journalist studying a
language course at the university.
She asked the squirming recruiters
a few uncomfortable questions
about the activities of NSA: which
countries the agency considers to
be "adversaries", and if being a
good liar is a qualification for
getting a job at the NSA.
She has posted a recording of the
session on Soundcloud, which you
can hear above, and posted a rough
transcript on her blog, The Mob
and the Multitude . Here are some
The session begins ...
Tahir: "Do you consider Germany
and the countries that the NSA has
been spying upon to be adversaries,
or are you, right now, not speaking
Recruiter 1: "You can define
adversary as 'enemy' and, clearly,
Germany is not our enemy. But
would we have foreign national
interests from an intelligence
perspective on what's going on
across the globe? Yeah, we do."
Tahir: "So by 'adversaries', you
actually mean anybody and
everybody. There is nobody, then,
by your definition that is not an
adversary. Is that correct?"
Recruiter 1: "That is not correct."
Recruiter 2: "... for us, our business
is apolitical, OK? We do not
generate the intelligence
requirements. They are levied on
us ... We might use the word
Tahir: "I'm just surprised that for
language analysts, you're
incredibly imprecise with your
language. And it just doesn't seem
to be clear."
Tahir: "... this is a recruiting
session and you are telling us
things that aren't true. And we also
know that the NSA took down
brochures and factsheets after the
Snowden revelations because those
factsheets also had severe
inaccuracies and untruths in them,
right? So how are we supposed to
believe what you're saying?"
Even later ...
Tahir: "I think the question here is
do you actually think about the
ramifications of the work that you
do, which is deeply problematic, or
do you just dress up in costumes
and get drunk?" [A reference to an
earlier comment the recruiter
made about NSA employees
working hard and going to the bar
to do karaoke.]
Recruiter 2: "... reporting the info
in the right context is so important
because the consequences of bad
political decisions by our
policymakers is something we all
Unnamed female student: "And
people suffer from the
misinformation that you pass along
so you should take responsibility as
Later still ...
Male student: "General Alexander
[head of the NSA] also lied in front
Recruiter 1: "I don't believe that he
Male student: "Probably because
access to the Guardian is restricted
on the Department of Defence's
computers . I am sure they don't
encourage people like you to
actually think about these things.
Thank God for a man like Edward
Snowden who your organisation is
now part of a manhunt trying to
track down, trying to put him in a
little hole somewhere for the rest of
his life. Thank God they exist."
And finally ...
Recruiter 2: "This job isn't for
everybody, you know ..."
Tahir: "So is this job for liars? Is
this what you're saying? Because,
clearly, you're not able to give us
forthright answers. I mean, given
the way the NSA has behaved, given
the fact that we've been lied to as
Americans, given the fact that
factsheets have been pulled down
because they clearly had untruths
in them, given the fact that Clapper
and Alexander lied to Congress - is
that a qualification for being in the
NSA? Do you have to be a good
Recruiter 1: I don't believe the NSA
is telling complete lies. And I do
believe that you know, I mean
people can, you can read a lot of
different things that are, um,
portrayed as fact and that doesn't
make them fact just because they're
Unnamed female student: "Or
Recruiter 1: "That's not really our
purpose here today and I think if
you're not interested in that ...
there are people here who are
probably interested in a language