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Although it's unlikely that any study exists to substantiate the
proposition, there appears to be a direct correlation between
codebreaking and appetite. When the new OPS 1 cafeteria opened on
December 15, 1993, a total of 9,743 people showed up. Before they left
they consumed 2,127 tacos and enchiladas from the Taco Bell stand,
176 pounds of salad, and about 20,000 other items. In 1993, food sales
totaled more than $7 million”and employees dropped another $2 million
in quarters into the city's 380 vending machines.
To help residents convert their nachos and deep-dish pizzas from a
solid into a liquid by means of sweat, half a dozen SHAPE Fitness
Centers”16,000 square feet of floor space”are located in the invisible
city. There, residents can exercise to their cardiovascular delight on
Stair-Masters, treadmills, LifeCycles, Nordic Tracks, stationary and
recumbent bikes, rowers, cross-country-ski simulators, upper-body
ergometers, gravitrons and Cybex resistance equipment. In the OPS 2B
Building every Tuesday and Thursday morning, technospooks are taught
to carry the tiger to the mountain, grasp the bird's tail, wave their hands
like clouds, step back and repulse the monkey, and perform more than
fifty other intricate moves of Tai Chi. Other courses include Shorinji
Kempo Martial Arts, Plyometrics Training, and Flexible Strength, a yoga-
type class. SHAPE also sponsors an annual 5K run for city residents.
After a hard day of stressful codebreaking, SHAPE offers "seated massage
therapy" by licensed massage therapists at a cost of $1 a minute, or
guided meditation for free.
Crypto City also has a unique collection of professional associations,
known as Learned Organizations. One of the first established was the
Crypto-Linguistic Association, which itself has a number of subgroups.
The members of the Special Interest Group on Lexicography (SIGLEX),
for example, strive to push ahead the state of the art of dictionary and


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glossary making, including even dictionaries for unwritten languages.
Two other special interest groups are SIGVOICE, concentrating on topics
ranging from accents to spoonerisms, and SIGTRAN, dedicated to the art
of translation.
Other Learned Organizations include the Crypto-Mathematics
Institute, the Computer Information Sciences Institute, and the
International Affairs Institute. The traffic and signal analysts have their
Communications Analysis Association, the cryptanalysts have their
Kryptos Society, and the intercept operators have their Collection
Association, which presents an award to the best eavesdropper of the
year.
While in many respects Crypto City is unique, and, to many, even
incomprehensible, it can also be very ordinary. Like other large
communities, it has its share of dirt, fear of crime, and other problems.
The same NSA police who guard the inner sanctum of codebreaking also,
during 1993, gave out thousands of parking tickets and responded to
236 traffic accidents and 742 other emergencies. NSAers complain about
poor working conditions. "Accumulated along every hallway leading to
those few stairways," said one employee whose branch moved into the
basement of the old OPS 1 Building, "are mounds of trash, pallets of
cast-off equipment, old racks, and dilapidated shelves." Another
complained of a burned-out car that had been in a city parking lot for
days, and of trash accumulating in front of OPS 2A.
Some residents are afraid to walk through remote tunnels and
hallways late at night. "If I use the south tunnel, I am really asking for
it," said one late-night worker. "Although the tunnel has a row of
overhead lights, only one works”and that one is very dim . . . someone
could wait there . . . follow me into the tunnel, and grab me once no one
was in sight."


At the heart of the invisible city is NSA's massive
Headquarters/Operations Building. With more than sixty-eight acres of
floor space, the entire U.S. Capitol Building could easily fit inside it four
times over. A modern, boxy structure with floor after floor of dark one-
way glass, from the outside much of the complex looks like any stylish
office building. But looks, like most else at NSA, are meant to deceive.
Hidden underneath this reflective glass is the real building. This one
is protected by a skin of orange-colored copper and unique windows”a
thick, bulletproof-like outer pane, five inches of sound-deadening space,
a thin copper screen, and an inner pane. The elaborate shielding is
designed to keep all sounds and signals”indeed all types of
electromagnetic radiation”from ever getting out. Known by the code-
name Tempest, this protective copper shielding technique is used


409
throughout much of the city and is designed to prevent electronic spies
from capturing any telltale emissions. Like a black hole, NSA pulls in
every signal that comes near, but no electron is ever allowed to escape.
At least that is the way NSA would like it.
The massive Headquarters/Operations Building is an interconnected
labyrinth of 3 million square feet that stretches in all directions.
Entrance is first made through the two-story Visitor Control Center, one
of more than 100 fixed watch posts within the secret city manned by the
armed NSA police. It is here that clearances are checked and visitor
badges are issued.
Far more than a simple piece of plastic, the NSA badge, about the size
of a playing card, with the employee's picture on the front, represents life
itself to Crypto City's tens of thousands of daytime residents. Take it
away, and their livelihood suddenly disappears; change the color, and
their status goes up or down. If they forget it, their day is a mess; if they
lose it, they come under suspicion. Add a tab, and their universe grows
slightly larger.
Blue badges are worn by those who have passed a lengthy
background investigation, suffered through a nerve-racking polygraph
exam, received a top secret codeword clearance, and, finally, been
"indoctrinated" into the supersecret world of Sigint and codemaking. The
"indoctrination" is NSAs version of at last being let in on the club's secret
handshake, finally being allowed to look behind the thick black curtain.
It is something like a Mafia induction ceremony without the drop of
blood. The fresh initiates may now be told how their country eavesdrops
on other countries, breaks their codes, and reads their most secret
communications.
Next, in solemn tones, the new blue-badgers are told the meaning of
certain secret codewords, such as Umbra, which, when stamped on a
document, means that it reveals the highest-level signals intelligence
sources and methods. Some are indoctrinated for additional codewords,
such as Gamma, which means that the information comes from a
particularly sensitive source, such as internal foreign communications
systems or cipher systems that NSA was able to defeat. Others, such as
Zarf, indicate that the information was obtained from electronic
intelligence picked up by eavesdropping satellites. Like an endless spiral,
there are secret classification systems within secret classification
systems. In 1974, a new category was approved exclusively for NSA's
most secret secrets: VRK, Very Restricted Knowledge.
Although they predominate in NSA's secret city, the blue badge is only
one of twenty-six different styles and colors that make up the security
rainbow. Fully cleared contractors wear green; those with only a secret
clearance have LIC (Limited Interim Clearance) printed on top; students



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at the National Cryptologic School have a turquoise border around their
badges; and former directors and deputy directors have red and blue
stripes around them. Important visitors have PV ("privileged visitor")
badges, while uncleared visitors must wear a badge with a large red V
and be accompanied by a person with an additional E (for "escort")
badge.
Additionally, for admittance into certain supersecure areas, a small
plastic plate must sometimes be attached to the neck chain above the
picture badge. Workers in the National Security Operations Center, for
example, wear a plate bearing the letters "NSOC." And at the agency's
giant listening post at Menwith Hill Station in central England, only
NSAers with a badge plate bearing a blue diagonal strip are allowed into
the building that houses Operation Silkworth. This is a satellite
eavesdropping mission targeting Russian microwave communications.
And then there is the red badge”the NSA equivalent of the Scarlet
Letter, awarded to those who have had their clearance taken away.
Although officially it stands for "clearance status not indicated," and is
normally worn by people working in the "Red Corridor"”the drugstore
and other concession areas”for ex”blue-badgers it is the ultimate
humiliation. Those with a red badge around their necks are forbidden to
go anywhere near classified information and are restricted to a few
corridors and administrative areas”the bank, the barbershop, the
cafeteria, the credit union, and the airline and entertainment ticket
counters. A clearance may be yanked for reasons ranging from bad debts
to an unauthorized meeting with a foreign official to an unfounded third-
hand rumor twice removed.
Regardless of their badge's color, all employees are warned, "After you
leave an NSA installation, remove your badge from public view, thus
avoiding publicizing your NSA affiliation."
Once inside the white, pentagonal Visitor Control Center, employees
are greeted by a six-foot painting of the NSA seal, an eagle clutching a
silver key in what the agency describes as "sinister talons." In front of the
seal are ten Access Control Terminals, watched over by a central security
command post. Employees insert their security badges into the
terminals, punch in their personal identification numbers on the
keyboard, and wait for the green light to signal that the turnstile is
unlocked. At unannounced times, a special cadre of NSA police officers
assigned to the Aperiodic Inspection Team conduct surprise inspections,
looking for anyone attempting to smuggle out secret documents, or to
sneak in cameras, tape recorders, computer disks”or Furbys.
In December 1998, worried security officials sent out a "Furby Alert"
on the agency's Intranet, banning the small furry toys. Because the
homely, bug-eyed creature contains a small device allowing it to mimic



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words, officials worried that a Furby might retain snippets of secret
conversations in its microbrain. NSA employees "are prohibited from
introducing these items into NSA spaces," the warning said. As for those
improbable few who might already have one sitting on their desk, the
notice sternly instructed them to "contact their Staff Security Officer for
guidance." In a recent year more than 30,000 inspections were
conducted at the Visitor Control Center and the other gatehouses. There
are no statistics on how many people were arrested with illegal Furbys.
From the Visitor Control Center one enters the eleven-story, $41
million OPS 2A, the tallest building in the City. Shaped like a dark glass
Rubik's Cube, the building houses much of NSA's Operations
Directorate, which is responsible for processing the ocean of intercepts
and prying open the complex cipher systems.


Beyond the Visitor Control Center, secrecy and security permeate the
air. Above escalators, moving electronic words on "Magic Message"
boards warn employees against talking about work outside the secret
city. Along hallways and in the cafeteria, signs hanging from the ceiling
warn "Don't Spill the Beans, Partner. No Classified Talk!" Other warnings
are posted on bulletin boards throughout the city. No meetings of any
kind may be held in the Visitor Control Center, where an uncleared
person may be present. Classified talk in "corridors, restrooms, cafeterias
. . . barber shop, and drugstore" is forbidden, according to the NSA
Security Handbook.
Every month, NSA's Office of Security pumps out 14,000 security
posters designed by "security awareness officers" to line Crypto City's
rest rooms, snack bars, hallways, and stairwells. Others are sent to
overseas listening posts and contractor facilities. One design pictured a
noose hanging from the branch of a tree, with the caption, "For Repeated
Security Violations." Some posters appear to have been concocted in a
time warp. On the very day that East and West Germany were unified in
the Federal Republic, security officials unveiled a new poster showing
East German troops standing on the Berlin Wall. The caption was a
menacing 1931 prediction by a Soviet official: the USSR would win a
military victory over the capitalists by duping them with bogus peace
overtures. Another poster shows Uncle Sam asleep under a tree while a
skulking Soviet ogre prepares to take advantage.
The posters prompted one NSA employee to question whether the
campaign represents "a not-too-subtle form of political indoctrination in
a format reminiscent of traditional Cold War propaganda." Another
complained that visitors to NSA "must find them surreal."
More recently, the posters have begun to reflect pop culture. One is
designed like a scene from the popular television quiz show Who Wants to


412
Be a Millionaire? "What should you do if approached by a foreign
intelligence officer?" reads the question. "A: Answer Questions; B: Accept
Gifts; C: Negotiate Payment." Circled is answer D: "Report Contact."
Finally, the poster adds, "And This Is OUR Final Answer." Another poster
bears a picture of a wastebasket containing copies of Newsweek, the
New York Times, and other news publications below the caption "Snooper
Bowl."
In 1996 agency artists put a grim-faced Cal Ripken, Jr., on a poster.
Knees flexed and glove at the ready, the Baltimore Orioles player stood
below a lime-green banner that read, "Security. Our Best Defense."
Unfortunately, no one had asked Ripken's permission, which provoked a
protest by his business management firm. "If Cal's identified, they need
our permission," complained Ira Rainess, general counsel of the Tufton
Group. "His publicity right is violated if they use any elements of Cal's
persona without consent. Even if they are just using it promotionally,
they are deriving some value from using Cal's image."
In a basement beneath OPS 2A, behind the door to Room 2A0114, is
the security command post for Crypto City. The Support Services
Operations Center (SSOC) is dominated by a tall, curved console
consisting of banks of computer screens and secure television and
telephone equipment. In operation twenty-four hours a day, the Center
oversees security throughout the city. It also serves as the city's crisis
hub through its Emergency Management Center. Officers handle more
than 1,500 calls a day”lockouts, requests for assistance, trespass
alarms, and radio dispatch instructions. The hundreds of closed-circuit
television cameras that peer down from the city's rooftops and line its
hallways are also monitored here”as are the cameras that keep the
director's house under constant surveillance.
Whenever someone in Crypto City dials 911, the call is answered in
the SSOC. Security officers can immediately determine the exact location
of the telephone. The Center handles an average of forty emergency calls
each month. It is also responsible for tracking NSA couriers and locating
missing employees. When a danger to the city”a bomb threat or a
terrorist attack, for instance”arises, the SSOC has authority to
undertake "hostile emergency action plans."
Hidden far from the spotlight, the agency has seen few external
assaults; when one is detected, no matter how minor, NSA immediately
goes to battle stations. On July 3, 1996, for example, both the SSOC and
the National Security Operations Center, the focal point of NSA's
worldwide eavesdropping network, were tipped off about a planned
demonstration at the agency. The group sponsoring the demonstration
was identified as the Baltimore Emergency Response Network (BERN), a
small, nonviolent organization that promotes peaceful solutions to
conflicts rather than armed intervention. Its leader was Philip Berrigan, a


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longtime veteran of peaceful demonstrations.
The protest was scheduled for the following day, the July Fourth
holiday. At NSA, the director and his senior staff were immediately

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