NSA SIGINT Seminars for the Press

In an attempt to convey to reporters the sensitivity of classified signals intelligence information and to discourage unnecessary disclosure of intelligence sources and methods, the National Security Agency held a series of by-invitation-only seminars for reporters and editors dubbed “SIGINT 101.”

The seminars, which were apparently held on several occasions between 2002 and 2004, were first reported by Josh Gerstein in the New York Sun. See “Spies Prep Reporters on Protecting Secrets,” September 27.

The course outline and supporting documents (pdf) that were first obtained by Mr. Gerstein under the Freedom of Information Act provide some additional insight into NSA concerns about the loss of SIGINT sources and the possibility of voluntary steps by the press to help protect them.

“We want to emphasize that we deplore ‘leaks’ or other unauthorized disclosures of properly classified material,” the NSA course module states.

However, given the fact of leaks, “we also want you to understand that in many instances, we believe that reporters can deal with the content of leaks in a way that does not expose intelligence sources and methods.”

“We ask that when intelligence information is reported, fragile intelligence source and method information, which is unnecessary to informed debate, not be disclosed along with it.”

See SIGINT 101 Seminar Course Module, National Security Agency (2002?).

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