NSA: National Security Agency Security Guidelines

 

This handbook is designed to introduce you to some of the basic security principles and procedures with which all NSA employees must comply.


Introduction

In joining NSA you have been given an opportunity to participate in the activities of one of the most important intelligence organizations of the United States Government. At the same time, you have also assumed a trust which carries with it a most important individual responsibility--the safeguarding of sensitive information vital to the security of our nation.

The information to which you will have access at NSA is without question critically important to the defense of the United States. Since this information may be useful only if it is kept secret, it requires a very special measure of protection.

The total NSA Security Program extends beyond these regulations. It is based upon the concept that security begins as a state of mind.

 

INITIAL SECURITY RESPONSIBILITIES


Anonymity


Perhaps one of the first security practices with which new NSA personnel should become acquainted is the practice of anonymity. In an open society such as ours, this practice is necessary because information which is generally available to the public is available also to hostile intelligence. Therefore, the Agency mission is best accomplished apart from public attention. Basically, anonymity means that NSA personnel are encouraged not to draw attention to themselves nor to their association with this Agency. NSA personnel are also cautioned neither to confirm nor deny any specific questions about NSA activities directed to them by individuals not affiliated with the Agency.


Answering Questions About Your Employment

Certainly, you may tell your family and friends that you are employed at or assigned to the National Security Agency. There is no valid reason to deny them this information. However, you may not disclose to them any information concerning specific aspects of the Agency's mission, activities, and organization. You should also ask them not to publicize your association with NSA.

Should strangers or casual acquaintances question you about your place of employment, an appropriate reply would be that you work for the Department of Defense. If questioned further as to where you are employed within the Department of Defense, you may reply, "NSA." When you inform someone that you work for NSA (or the Department of Defense) you may expect that the next question will be, "What do you do?" It is a good idea to anticipate this question and to formulate an appropriate answer. Do not act mysteriously about your employment, as that would only succeed in drawing more attention to yourself.

Answering Questions About Your Agency Training

During your career or assignment at NSA, there is a good chance that you will receive some type of job-related training. In many instances the nature of the training is not classified. However, in some situations the specialized training you receive will relate directly to sensitive Agency functions. In such cases, the nature of this training may not be discussed with persons outside of this Agency.

You should not draw undue attention to your language abilities, and you may not discuss how you apply your language skill at the Agency.


GENERAL RESPONSIBILITIES


Espionage and Terrorism


During your security indoctrination and throughout your NSA career you will become increasingly aware of the espionage and terrorist threat to the United States. Your vigilance is the best single defense in protecting NSA information, operations, facilities and people. Any information that comes to your attention that suggests to you the existence of, or potential for, espionage or terrorism against the U.S. or its allies must be promptly reported by you to the Office of Security.

There should be no doubt in your mind about the reality of the threats. You are now affiliated with the most sensitive agency in government and are expected to exercise vigilance and common sense to protect NSA against these threats.

Classification

Originators of correspondence, communications, equipment, or documents within the Agency are responsible for ensuring that the proper classification, downgrading information and, when appropriate, proper caveat notations are assigned to such material. (This includes any handwritten notes which contain
classified information).

The three levels of classification are Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. The NSA Classification Manual should be used as guidance in determining proper classification. If after review of this document you need assistance, contact the Classification Advisory Officer (CAO) assigned to your organization, or the Information Policy Division (Q43).

Need-To-Know

Classified information is disseminated only on a strict "need-to-know" basis.
The "need-to-know" policy means that classified information will be disseminated only to those individuals who, in addition to possessing a proper clearance, have a requirement to know this information in order to perform their official duties (need-to-know). No person is entitled to classified information solely by virtue of office, position, rank, or security clearance.


Personnel Security Responsibilities


Perhaps you may recall your initial impression upon entering an NSA facility. Like most people, you probably noticed the elaborate physical security safeguards--fences, concrete barriers, Security Protective Officers, identification badges, etc. While these measures provide a substantial degree of protection for the information housed within our buildings, they represent only a portion of the overall Agency security program. In fact, vast amounts of information leave our facilities daily in the minds of NSA personnel, and this is where our greatest vulnerability lies. Experience has indicated that because of the vital information we work with at NSA, Agency personnel may become potential targets for hostile intelligence efforts. Special safeguards are therefore necessary to protect our personnel.

Accordingly, the Agency has an extensive personnel security program which establishes internal policies and guidelines governing employee conduct and activities. These policies cover a variety of topics, all of which are designed to protect both you and the sensitive information you will gain through your work at NSA.

Association With Foreign Nationals

As a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and by virtue of your access to sensitive information, you are a potential target for hostile intelligence activities carried out by or on behalf of citizens of foreign countries. A policy concerning association with foreign nationals has been established by the Agency to minimize the likelihood that its personnel might become subject to undue influence or duress or targets of hostile activities through foreign relationships.

As an NSA affiliate, you are prohibited from initiating or maintaining associations (regardless of the nature and degree) with citizens or officials of communist-controlled, or other countries which pose a significant threat to the security of the United States and its interests. A comprehensive list of these designated countries is available from your Staff Security Officer or the Security Awareness Division. Any contact with citizens of these countries, no matter how brief or seemingly innocuous, must be reported as soon as possible to your Staff Security Officer (SSO). (Individuals designated as Staff Security Officers are assigned to every organization; a listing of Staff Security Officers can be found at the back of this handbook).

Additionally, close and continuing associations with any non-U.S. citizens which are characterized by ties of kinship, obligation, or affection are prohibited. A waiver to this policy may be granted only under the most exceptional circumstances when there is a truly compelling need for an individual's services or skills and the security risk is negligible.

In particular, a waiver must be granted in advance of a marriage to or cohabitation with a foreign national in order to retain one's access to NSA information. Accordingly, any intent to cohabitate with or marry a non-U.S. citizen must be reported immediately to your Staff Security Officer. If a waiver is granted, future reassignments both at headquarters and overseas may be affected.

The marriage or intended marriage of an immediate family member (parents, siblings, children) to a foreign national must also be reported through your SSO to the Clearance Division (M55).

Casual social associations with foreign nationals which arise from normal living and working arrangements in the community usually do not have to be reported. During the course of these casual social associations, you are encouraged to extend the usual social amenities. Do not act mysteriously or draw attention to yourself (and possibly to NSA) by displaying an unusually wary attitude.

Naturally, your affiliation with the Agency and the nature of your work should not be discussed. Again, you should be careful not to allow these associations to become close and continuing to the extent that they are characterized by ties of kinship, obligation, or affection.

If at any time you feel that a "casual" association is in any way suspicious, you should report this to your Staff Security Officer immediately. Whenever any doubt exists as to whether or not a situation should be reported or made a matter of record, you should decided in favor of reporting it. In this way, the situation can be evaluated on its own merits, and you can be advised as to your future course of action.

Correspondence With Foreign Nationals

NSA personnel are discouraged from initiating correspondence with individuals who are citizens of foreign countries. Correspondence with citizens of communist-controlled or other designated countries is prohibited. Casual social correspondence, including the "pen-pal" variety, with other foreign acquaintances is acceptable and need not be reported. If, however, this correspondence should escalate in its frequency or nature, you should report that through your Staff Security Officer to the Clearance Division (M55).

Embassy Visits

Since a significant percentage of all espionage activity is known to be conducted through foreign embassies, consulates, etc., Agency policy discourages visits to embassies, consulates or other official establishments of a foreign government. Each case, however, must be judged on the circumstances involved. Therefore, if you plan to visit a foreign embassy for any reason (even to obtain a visa), you must consult with, and obtain the prior approval of, your immediate supervisor and the Security Awareness Division (M56).

Amateur Radio Activities

Amateur radio (ham radio) activities are known to be exploited by hostile intelligence services to identify individuals with access to classified information; therefore, all licensed operators are expected to be familiar with NSA/CSS Regulation 100-1, "Operation of Amateur Radio Stations" (23 October 1986). The specific limitations on contacts with operators from communist and designated countries are of particular importance. If you are an amateur radio operator you should advise the Security Awareness Division (M56) of your amateur radio activities so that detailed guidance may be furnished to you.

Unofficial Foreign Travel

In order to further protect sensitive information from possible compromise resulting from terrorism, coercion, interrogation or capture of Agency personnel by hostile nations and/or terrorist groups, the Agency has established certain policies and procedures concerning unofficial foreign
travel.

All Agency personnel (civilian employees, military assignees, and contractors) who are planning unofficial foreign travel must have that travel approved by submitting a proposed itinerary to the Security Awareness Division (M56) at least 30 working days prior to their planned departure from the United States.
Your itinerary should be submitted on Form K2579 (Unofficial Foreign Travel Request). This form provides space for noting the countries to be visited, mode of travel, and dates of departure and return. Your immediate supervisor must sign this form to indicate whether or not your proposed travel poses a
risk to the sensitive information, activities, or projects of which you may have knowledge due to your current assignment.

After your supervisor's assessment is made, this form should be forwarded to the Security Awareness Director (M56). Your itinerary will then be reviewed in light of the existing situation in the country or countries to be visited, and a decision for approval or disapproval will be based on this assessment. The purpose of this policy is to limit the risk of travel to areas of the world where a threat may exist to you and to your knowledge of classified Agency activities.

In this context, travel to communist-controlled and other hazardous activity areas is prohibited. A listing of these hazardous activity areas is prohibited. A listing of these hazardous activity areas can be found in Annex A of NSA/CSS Regulation No. 30-31, "Security Requirements for Foreign Travel" (12 June 1987). From time to time, travel may also be prohibited to certain areas where the threat from hostile intelligence services, terrorism, criminal activity or insurgency poses an unacceptable risk to Agency employees and to the sensitive information they possess. Advance travel deposits made without prior agency approval of the proposed travel may result in financial losses by the employee should the travel be disapproved, so it is important to obtain approval prior to committing yourself financially. Questions regarding which areas of the world currently pose a threat should be directed to the Security Awareness Division (M56).

Unofficial foreign travel to Canada, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Mexico does not require prior approval, however, this travel must still be reported using Form K2579. Travel to these areas may be reported after the fact.

While you do not have to report your foreign travel once you have ended your affiliation with the Agency, you should be aware that the risk incurred in travelling to certain areas, from a personal safety and/or counterintelligence standpoint, remains high. The requirement to protect the classified information to which you have had access is a lifetime obligation.

Membership In Organizations

Within the United States there are numerous organizations with memberships ranging from a few to tens of thousands. While you may certainly participate in the activities of any reputable organization, membership in any international club or professional organization/activity with foreign members should be
reported through your Staff Security Officer to the Clearance Division (M55). In most cases there are no security concerns or threats to our employees or affiliates. However, the Office of Security needs the opportunity to research the organization and to assess any possible risk to you and the information to
which you have access.

In addition to exercising prudence in your choice of organizational affiliations, you should endeavor to avoid participation in public activities of a conspicuously controversial nature because such activities could focus undesirable attention upon you and the Agency. NSA employees may, however, participate in bona fide public affairs such as local politics, so long as such activities do not violate the provisions of the statutes and regulations which govern the political activities of all federal employees. Additional information may be obtained from your Personnel Representative.

Changes In Marital Status/Cohabitation/Names

All personnel, either employed by or assigned to NSA, must advise the Office of Security of any changes in their marital status (either marriage or divorce), cohabitation arrangements, or legal name changes. Such changes should be reported by completing NSA Form G1982 (Report of Marriage/Marital Status Change/Name Change), and following the instructions printed on the form.

Use And Abuse Of Drugs

It is the policy of the National Security Agency to prevent and eliminate the improper use of drugs by Agency employees and other personnel associated with the Agency. The term "drugs" includes all controlled drugs or substances identified and listed in the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, as amended, which includes but is not limited to: narcotics, depressants, stimulants, cocaine, hallucinogens ad cannabis (marijuana, hashish, and hashish oil). The use of illegal drugs or the abuse of prescription drugs by persons employed by, assigned or detailed to the Agency may adversely affect the national security; may have a serious damaging effect on the safety and the safety of others; and may lead to criminal prosecution. Such use of drugs either within or outside Agency controlled facilities is prohibited.

Physical Security Policies

The physical security program at NSA provides protection for classified material and operations and ensures that only persons authorized access to the Agency's spaces and classified material are permitted such access. This program is concerned not only with the Agency's physical plant and facilities, but also with the internal and external procedures for safeguarding the Agency's classified material and activities. Therefore, physical security safeguards include Security Protective Officers, fences, concrete barriers, access control points, identification badges, safes, and the compartmentalization of physical spaces. While any one of these safeguards represents only a delay factor against attempts to gain unauthorized access to NSA spaces and material, the total combination of all these safeguards represents a formidable barrier against physical penetration of NSA. Working together with personnel security policies, they provide "security in depth."


 
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