The National Security Agency — which as whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed, hasn’t been truthful about how much data it collects on phone calls and internet traffic — just removed “honesty” from the core values listed on its website.
“Honesty” has been listed as a priority on the NSA’s website since at least May 3, 2016. But in an updated version on January 12, 2018, first spotted by The Intercept, the word was replaced with replaced with “Commitment to Service.”
An archived version of the NSA’s Mission & Values page says the agency recognizes that both American leaders and citizens have “placed great trust” in it, and that the NSA strives “at all times to be deserving of that trust.”
“We will be truthful with each other, and honor the public’s need for openness, balanced against national security interests,” the core values read.
But in the updated version of the page, all phrases containing “trust” and “openness” are gone. Instead, the core values now focus on reliability.
The new version reads: “Knowing that the country, our friends and allies are relying on us, we are dedicated to fulfilling our commitment to serve and to excellence in the pursuit of our critical mission.”
The NSA’s core values still maintain a commitment to transparency and integrity, but their descriptions of both values have changed.
“We never forget that we, too, are Americans,” the archived page says. “And that every activity we engage in is aimed at ensuring the safety, security, and liberty of our fellow citizens.”
The updated version says that the NSA is “committed to fostering public understanding of NSA’s mission.” It now provides “complete transparency to those who authorize and oversee NSA’s work on behalf of the American people” rather than just “the American people.”
Instead of “behave honorably and apply good judgement,” the description next to “Integrity” now directs NSA employees to “communicate honestly and directly, acting ethically and fairly.”
Two core values have been added to the NSA’s website: “Respect for People” and “Accountability.” The first appears to be geared toward diversity in the NSA’s workplace, promising that “all NSA personnel are respected.”
“Accountability” is defined as taking responsibility for NSA actions. The one core value that hasn’t been changed is “Respect for the Law,” which emphasizes adherence to the U.S. Constitution.
The NSA denies any malevolent intentions in changing its core values. According to a statement from the agency’s spokesperson Clarese Wilson, “All six core values — Integrity, Transparency, Respect for People, Accountability, Commitment to Service, and Respect for the Law — provide a solid and credible foundation for our employees as they serve the nation and our allies.
“Our obligation has not wavered; the agency remains firmly committed to communicating honestly and directly, and acting ethically and fairly.”
Thomas Groves, another spokesperson for the NSA, told The Intercept the change is “nothing more than a website update.”