Since May 2016, the National Security Agency has listed honesty at the top of its core values, vowing to “be truthful with each other,” but the agency’s mission statement was revised recently, and honesty is no longer the top priority. In fact, it is now completely omitted.
The new mission statement NSA that was released on Jan. 12 removes honesty, along with all references to “truth,” “honor” and “openness.” The NSA’s commitment to “honor the public’s need for openness” and preserve the “great trust” placed in the agency by American leaders and citizens has been deleted, as well.
Further alterations have been made to the agency’s definition of transparency and integrity. While the previous definition of transparency felt beholden to leaders and citizens alike, the revised statement outlines an effort to provide “complete transparency to those who authorize and oversee NSA’s work on behalf of the American people.” The new definition of integrity reads much more vaguely and removes the agency’s commitment to “behave honorably and apply good judgement.”
Replacing honesty at the top of the list is “commitment to service,” which reads as a more proper way of saying the agency is going to do its job. The new statement also adds “respect for people” and “accountability,” though both given definitions leave something to be desired. “Respect for people” outlines how the NSA is “committed to ensuring that all NSA personnel are respected” but makes no such commitment toward American citizens, and “accountability” barely moves beyond a dictionary definition, stating that the agency will “take responsibility for our decisions.”
Overall, the NSA’s revised mission statement reads much more vaguely, and directly in service to the people who oversee the agency and to whom the agency reports. It’s just another example of the erosion of trust, honor and openness that has defined the actions of the U.S. government over the past year.
When asked about the updates by The Intercept, NSA spokesperson Thomas Graves responded, “it’s nothing more than a website update, that’s all it is.”