In the USA, the National Security Agency or NSA is a department of defense under the Director of National Intelligence, but what does it do, and what should you know?

Not only is the NSA in charge of global monitoring and processing information for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, but it is also important in protecting the U.S. communications networks.

Below, we will discuss some well-known information about this agency and their NSA whistleblower policy.

What is the NSA and what does it do?

Some basic information about the NSA is that it was formed in 1952 as a unit to decipher communication codes during WWII, being formed after the war ended. It would later be used to end the Cold War and then become one of the U.S.’s biggest intelligence agencies.

It does not, however, have the same budget as the CIA, which gets a bigger budget each year.

Although the NSA was not formally recognized until 1952, it can be traced back as far as 1917, just after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany in the First World War. As with WWII, this small division was used to help break code ciphers to intercept communications.

Codebreaking and breaking ciphers were paramount in both wars for knowing what the enemy was planning and how to prepare and respond. The department moved locations after the First World War but continued working with intelligence and communications as the Code Compilation Company.

In the past, information about how the NSA gathered global information leaked to the public, and since then, it has been deemed that some of the ways that the companies were spying on countries and people worldwide were not legal.

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The legality of the information collection was decided and dealt with in a U.S. court, and those who defended it were also found to be not telling the truth when information was given. Despite this ruling in 2020, the NSA is still active and has at least two watch centers.

What does whistleblowing mean?

Whistleblowing is an important policy in any place of employment, but potentially more so when we look at the NSA. Although there was a leak in 2013, you may wonder how this differs from actual whistleblowing.

When you leak information, you do not always have to have information to back up your claims, even if they have solid foundations. You are also not protected if you choose to leak information instead of following a whistleblowing procedure.

If you work for or have been a contractor for the NSA, you can whistleblow with protection. Whistleblowing is recognized if you have evidence or you reasonably believe there has been a violation of a law, regulation, or rule by someone in the NSA or by the company themselves.

Whistleblowing also includes misuse of funds, gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, and a substantial belief that there is a danger to the public’s health and safety due to an action by someone in the NSA or working as a contractor to the NSA.

However, to be guaranteed protection, you must have disclosed this information to a supervisor in that employee’s chain of command. You can also report concerns to an Inspector General, another federal employee, or office to achieve whistleblower status.

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As many cases that involve whistleblowing in the NSA will include classified information, you will not be protected if you are found to have disclosed any classified information. In most cases, you will be anonymous if you get further past this point.

As with other companies’ policies, it is important to keep track of who you have informed and when. You should report through the chain of command as high as you need before taking information further.

Who can help me with the NSA whistleblower process?

If you are in a position where you feel you are prepared to whistleblow and you have the information to back up the claim you have, you would be wise to look for a federal whistleblowing lawyer.

You can search for something similar to NSA and NSA contractors’ whistleblower attorney online. A law firm such as this would give you qualified and professional attorneys who will be able to help enforce the protection you have as a whistleblower.

The protection will include keeping your anonymity if you choose to. You should get protection to keep your job if you so wish, and in some cases, you may even receive some compensation for whistleblowing if your case qualifies.

If you get this far, it is worth talking to your attorney to see what you could be entitled to as compensation if the case allows. Ensure the information you have or what you have witnessed qualifies so you get protection.

What is the difference between leaking and whistleblowing?

Due to the leak that led to a court ruling, it is worth considering whether leaking or whistleblowing is the better option. Leaking information can backfire on you depending on what information you leak and how this affects the company.

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You do not have any legal protection if you choose to leak information, even if this information is correct. When you whistleblow with reasonable belief and information to back up your claim, you have protection from the law.

Whistleblowing laws are why you can find attorneys who will work alongside someone who is whistleblowing for a company and not just the NSA. Law firms will support and represent people who whistleblow in any federal department, ensuring your legal rights and protection as a whistleblower are in place.

Most people who whistleblow or leak information have previously worked for that department or company so they will benefit from legal protection and an attorney’s help. If you leak information and do not have a legal backup, you may find yourself in a worse position regardless of whether your information is correct.

Holding the NSA accountable

The NSA has been around for longer than most people realize and plays a vital role in security in the U.S. However, it has previously been found not to be doing fully legal things following a leak in 2013.

It is important to report any illegal actions following the whistleblowing policy in the department and get a qualified legal professional to help you if you are going to whistleblow.