Threat Intelligence

NSA documents detail Agency’s actions during the Iraq War


A Freedom of Information Act request by the website has resulted in the release of dozens of messages from the director of the National Security Agency (NSA) to his staff during the run up and prosecution of the Iraq War.

Although heavily redacted, the messages from General Michael Hayden, titled WARgrams, give a running commentary on the war itself, the agency's role supporting the action and how the NSA fit into the overall war on terrorism. The documents, while never before released, were hinted at in the Edward Snowden data dump, according to Motherboard.

The WARgrams read less like war dispatches and more like updates from a corporate CEO on a company's daily business. In fact, twice Hayden refers to the government entities receiving NSA help as “customers” and intelligence reports as “intelligence product.” He also mentioned new hires and acquisitions. But for the most part the updates cover conventional ground, starting with Hayden preparing the NSA for its role in supporting the Iraq War.

“Over the last few weeks, you have probably felt the growing intensity as the National Security Agency prepares for war,” Hayden wrote. "The preparations for a conflict with lraq have touched almost every aspect of the extended enterprise, ranging from support! [redacted] to deploying assets indirect support of combat operations. And now, after all the preparations and briefings and planning, the hour of execution is upon us."

He mentions nothing about NSA intelligence capabilities or what the agency is discovering with its spy apparatus, but one item touched upon several times is the human element. Hayden tells those at NSA headquarters that some agency members are in Iraq with the troops working under combat conditions. In a later WARgram, he breaks the news that one of their own, Sgt. Joseph Nolan, was killed in action.

Hayden also uses the WARgrams to pass along some information not being released to the public concerning the war's progress, including which Iraqi units had been destroyed or were about to be, as well as his feelings on events taking place in Iraq.

“And, as I write this, I am noting some remarkable scenes in network news coverage of Baghdad as the Iraqi people shed decades of fear. Watching a statue of Saddam being destroyed and its head rolling down the street brings with it a certain sense of accomplishment. Each and every one of you should take pride in your part in that accomplishment. You deserve to pause for a moment and reflect on what you have helped achieve.”

Hayden uses these notes to stress how important the work is being done by the NSA in the fight against terrorism and to ward off another September 11 style attack in the United States.

“As you know, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge, Attorney General Ashcroft and FBI Director Mueller warned the nation this week that al-Qa'ida senior leadership is planning to strike again within the United States, probably before the November elections, and that preparations for the attack are almost complete,” he wrote in WARgram 61, adding, “Let me be clear: our response is not an exercise about the future security of the nation, it's about doing all we can right now to protect our homes and loved ones from another round of massive attacks. We must not fail.”

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