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[infowar.de] BS 18.06.02 NSA gibt Werbekampage in Auftrag - Vorsicht Feind hört mit!
June 18, 2002
Super-Shy Spy Agency Sheds Silence To Secure U.S. Secrets
Loose lips can still sink ships, NSA warns in ads echoing World War II
By Ariel Sabar, Sun Staff
The country's most secretive spy agency is breaking its silence. And
this is what it has to say: Sssshhhhhh!
"Our enemies are unlike any we've encountered before," the National
Security Agency warns in a series of slickly produced newspaper ads.
"Don't arm them with information that can harm us."
The ads feature nostalgic illustrations of soldiers in heroic poses that
are a deliberate reference to the classic "Loose Lips Sink Ships"
posters of the World War II era.
NSA officials say the ads, published recently in newspapers read mostly
by military personnel, are in keeping with the agency's mission to
safeguard national secrets. But its decision to hire a private ad firm
and to carry out the campaign in the commercial media is a telling shift
for an institution whose initials, people used to joke, stood for "Never
"I think NSA is coming out of the closet in terms of its enormous
secrecy," says James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the
Ultra Secret National Security Agency. "The agency is realizing that it
can't exist within the world anymore as a top-secret agency."
The ads have gotten the agency something it has rarely been comfortable
with: attention. NSA officials say they were startled by the avalanche
of media interest in the ads, and its Baltimore-based advertising agency
has been swamped with requests from the public for poster versions of
the ad. (They aren't available.)
The ads mark the first time since the NSA's inception 50 years ago that
it has hired an outside ad firm or bought ads for anything other than
employee recruitment, agency officials said.
Before now, the idea of any alliance between Madison Avenue and the NSA
would have been laughed off as preposterous. So publicity-shy was the
agency that its 25,000 workers were long discouraged from telling
friends and neighbors where their paychecks came from.
The NSA, which is based at Fort Meade, cracks foreign codes and
eavesdrops on phone calls, e-mail and other electronic signals abroad.
It also writes the codes the government uses to store and transmit
sensitive information. Its culture of secrecy eclipses even that of the
Central Intelligence Agency.
So what is it doing hiring a national ad agency whose clients include
the Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Baltimore Orioles? Why did it
commission an illustrator who has designed ads for McDonald's and
artwork for Penthouse magazine?
Historic times call for historic measures, the agency says.
"The increased threat of terrorism intensifies the demand for our
military personnel to protect our nation's most vital information, and
the ads are a highly visible reminder to them of their crucial role in
this regard," an NSA spokesperson said in a written response to
"We believe that, as in all successful public awareness initiatives, we
will have influenced our target audience by using this traditional
The ads, which bear the agency's name and logo, have a secondary effect
- of publicizing the NSA's dedication to the war on terrorism. They come
as Congress begins an inquiry into the failure of intelligence agencies
to spot warning signals of the Sept. 11 attacks.
>From the start, the Bush administration has fought the war on terrorism
with words and warheads.
Less than a month after the attacks, a New York advertising executive,
Charlotte Beers, was sworn in as an undersecretary of state and charged
with marketing the war to the Islamic world.
The Pentagon had proposed creating an Office of Strategic Influence to
feed propaganda to the foreign media, though the plan was scrapped amid
a backlash in Congress and the media. It has also reportedly been paying
a Washington public relations firm $100,000 a month to plot media
The NSA campaign, which cost the agency nearly $100,000, has a narrower
focus. The ads are running from April through this month in Army Times,
Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times - weekly newspapers
owned by Gannett Corp. that reach 237,000 paid subscribers.
Posters of the same design are being sent to generals and admirals to
display at bases and at sea.
"INFORMATION Security Begins with You!" the ads proclaim. "Use secure
communications when discussing classified or sensitive information.
Handle and discard memos, documents, correspondence and e-mails
Although Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has railed against
Pentagon leaks to the media, defense analysts say they know of no
instances in which careless talk by military personnel since Sept. 11
has helped terrorists.
Still, analysts praised the NSA campaign, saying that even seemingly
innocuous conversations in bars or over unsecured telephone lines could
tip off terrorists to the movements of troops, ships or military police.
"There's all kinds of fairly routine information that could actually be
used by a terrorist," said Michele A. Flourney, a former Pentagon
official who is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and
International Studies, a Washington think tank.
"I think that just heightening awareness and making people stop and
think" is valuable, she said.
The ads have achieved a measure of celebrity beyond the dozen phone
calls and e-mail the NSA's ad agency says it has received each day from
people wanting poster-sized copies.
A satire on the Web site of conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh
reads: "Senators & Congressmen, Information Security Begins with You. So
The ads' popular appeal appears to lie in the larger-than-life
illustrations of ordinary Americans in uniform, rendered in airbrushed
paint and colored pencil by illustrator Richard L. Waldrep.
Waldrep, who lives in Sparks, said he drew inspiration from posters
produced by the Office of War Information during World War II, with
their injunctions to buy war bonds, zip lips and emulate Rosie the
Those posters were aimed at the public and hung in offices, schools and
government buildings. They often bore alarmist epigrams such as,
"Careless talk kills!"
The ad agency hired by the NSA, Trahan, Burden & Charles, took a
nostalgic tack deliberately.
The creative director, Thomas L. Burden, said he wanted to capitalize on
the resurgence of popular interest in World War II fueled by movies such
as Saving Private Ryan and books such as Tom Brokaw's The Greatest
Generation. He was trying to draw on the 1940s Zeitgeist of national
unity and common purpose.
"At that point in our history," he said, "everyone was pulling
But there are differences between the NSA posters and those of the World
War II era. The NSA ads use toned-down language and depict women and
minorities in uniform, in addition to white men.
For longtime observers of the NSA's attempts at artwork - yes, such
people do exist - the decision to hire a professional firm is a step in
the right direction.
Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst at the Federation of American
Scientists who has collected old NSA posters, remembers one of a
Dracula-like spy sucking an employee's blood and another of former
Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev peering over a worker's shoulder.
They were rarely displayed outside the well-guarded perimeters of
"A lot of them were embarrassingly bad," Aftergood says. "They either
involved lame puns or shoddy artwork, or they insulted one's
As he sees it, the shift to outside professionals and paid ads in
newspapers reflects a long-overdue media savvy.
"It suggests a slightly more aggressive approach," he says. "They're not
just stockpiling posters and inviting people to pick them up. They're
pushing the message."
HSFK Hessische Stiftung für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung
PRIF Peace Research Institute Frankfurt
Leimenrode 29 60322 Frankfurt a/M Germany
Tel +49 (0)69 9591 0422 Fax +49 (0)69 5584 81
Mobil 0172 3196 006
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