<<

. 74
( 118 .)



>>

ended, so did the preoccupation with borders. The new non-traditional
threats”terrorism, nuclear weapons proliferation, and drugs”have no
borders.



419
Thus, in 1997 the old geographically based groups were replaced with
two new organizations. W Group, the Office of Global Issues and
Weapons Systems, was formed to focus the agency's powerful
eavesdropping platforms on these new transnational adversaries,
irrespective of geography. The other, M Group, the Office of Geopolitical
and Military Production, would concentrate on the cyber infrastructure of
potential adversaries, looking, for example, for vulnerabilities in their
telecommunications systems.
Chief of M Group in 2000 was Jeanne Y. Zimmer, who was awarded
the Pentagon's Distinguished Civilian Service Award for her "leadership
and management of a newly formed organization with worldwide
responsibilities [that] had a lasting impact for the United States." The
NSA's organizational changes, said former NSA director Minihan, "lets
you think in a more agile and dynamic way. Now you are not looking at
airplanes, tanks, ships, and soldiers. You are looking at the
infrastructure within which the operating capability of the adversary
exists."
Room 3E099 of OPS 1 is the home of the National Security Operations
Center, the very heart of NSA's worldwide eavesdropping activities.
Located on the building's third floor, the NSOC (pronounced "N-sock") is
reached through a set of automatic glass doors. Above are the seals of
the three organizations that make up the NSA's own military, the Central
Security Service, and below, inlaid in the flooring, are the Center's
initials.
Inside is a quiet, windowless, war room”like command center, staffed
around the clock by five rotating teams of civilian and military personnel.
Waist-high cubicles separate target areas, such as terrorism and
transnational threats; large video screens cover the walls; and computer
monitors glow like electronic candles in the dim light. On the top of the
wall, clocks tick off time in various places”Bosnia, Moscow, Iraq. If an
uncleared visitor enters, red warning lights begin to whirl. The NSOC
directs critical and time-sensitive signals intelligence and information
security operations. When it was established in 1972, the NSOC was
known as the National Sigint Operations Center. The name was changed
in 1996 when the NSOC also became the center for the information
security side of the agency, responsible for developing cipher machines
and assisting in protecting the nation against cyber attacks. Its director
in 2000 was Colonel Joe Brand. Reporting to him is the senior operation
officer (SOO), the NSA duty officer. If a listening post suddenly picks up
an indication of a far-off assassination, or a sudden attack by Russia on
a neighboring republic, a CRITIC message containing that information
will be flashed immediately to the NSOC. Shortly after the USS Cole was
attacked by terrorists in the port of Aden in October 2000, a CRITIC was
zapped to the NSOC. Within minutes of the early morning message, a call


420
was placed to the director, Michael Hayden.
Elsewhere in the NSOC, information security specialists monitor
critical networks for indications of threats and intrusions. During a
crisis, senior officials meet in the nearby conference room, where they sit
around a highly polished, wedge-shaped conference table with a secure
conference speakerphone in the center.
Just down the hallway, in Room 3E132, is Special Support Activity,
which provides sensitive assistance to military commanders and federal
executives around the world. Units known as Cryptologic Service Groups
(CSGs) bring the NSA, in microcosm, to the national security community
and forces in the field. Among the more than thirty CSGs is one assigned
to the U.S. Operations Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
Another is at the State Department in Washington. There, the CSGs are
most useful when they can provide diplomats with intercepts containing
details of their opponents' positions during important negotiations.
Further down the hallway in OPS 1 is NSA's Worldwide Video
Teleconferencing Center, which allows headquarters employees to
conduct highly secret meetings with their counterparts at various
listening posts around the world or with officials from NSA's foreign
partners, such as Britain's GCHQ. The Center conducts about 200
conferences a month. It consists of a large conference room, with space
for twenty-five participants, and a wall of television monitors. This allows
the faraway participants to be seen and heard simultaneously. Data can
also be exchanged, by computer and fax. All communication to and from
the teleconferencing center is heavily encrypted and highly secure.
Among the most secret organizations in OPS 1 is the Defense Special
Missile and Astronautics Center (DEFSMAC). At the entrance to Room
1E069 is the organization's seal: an orbiting satellite and a patch of stars
above the earth. Even within the intelligence community, DEFSMAC
(pronounced "deaf-smack"), a joint project of the NSA and the DIA,
remains little known.
Robert McNamara established the organization on April 27, 1964,
largely as a result of the Cuban missile crisis, in order to evaluate foreign
missile activity and threats. "You didn't want NORAD [the North
American Air Defense Command] fooling around in technologies that
they didn't understand, or trying to evaluate a bunch of raw data, so
DEFSMAC was put in," said Lieutenant General Daniel O. Graham, a
former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Since its beginning,
the organization has always been headed by an NSA civilian, with a DIA
colonel as deputy director.
Today the organization operates as the nation's chief warning bell for
the launch of foreign rockets”whether in ballistic missile tests by China
or North Korea, or in an attack from a rogue launch site in Russia. The


421
focal point for "all source" intelligence”listening posts, early warning
satellites, human agents, seismic detectors”on missile launches,
DEFSMAC provides the "initial analysis and reporting on all foreign
space and missile events."
As other organizations have shrunk with the end of the Cold War,
DEFSMAC has more than doubled its size, to more than 230 people,
eighty-five of whom staff a new operations center. Where once DEFSMAC
had only Russia and China to monitor, its widely dispersed targets now
also include India, North Korea, Iran, Israel, and Pakistan.
DEFSMAC watches the earth as a physician listens to a heart, hoping
to detect the first irregular beat indicating that a missile is about to be
launched. "It has all the inputs from all the assets, and is a warning
activity," explained one former NSA official. "They probably have a better
feel for any worldwide threat to this country from missiles, aircraft, or
overt military activities, better and more timely, at instant fingertip
availability, than any group in the United States." According to another
former NSA official, "DEFSMAC not only detects them but . . . [also has]
the capability to relatively immediately determine what kind of a vehicle
was launched, what trajectory it's on, and based on all these parameters
they can say either it's a threat or it's not a threat." A recent director of
DEFSMAC, Chary Izquierdo, referred to her organization as "the
[nation's] premier missile and space intelligence producer."
Once DEFSMAC receives a tip-off, an indication that a launch is soon
to take place somewhere in the world, a complex chain of events is set in
motion. For example, in October 1998 NSA satellites and listening posts,
such as those in Germany, picked up indications that Russia was about
to test a new missile from its launch site in Plesetsk, in the country's far
northwest. Electronic signatures intercepted from Russian instruments
being prepared to measure the rocket's telemetry gave one of the first
clues that the missile was a Topol-M single-warhead intercontinental
ballistic missile. Signals intelligence satellites also likely picked up phone
conversations between the launch site and Moscow.
Upon receiving such indicators, DEFSMAC officials would
immediately have sent out near-real-time and in-depth, all-source
intelligence alerts to almost 200 "customers," including the White House
Situation Room, the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon,
the DIA Alert Center, and all listening posts in the area of the launch
site. At the same time, elsewhere within DEFSMAC, analysts would have
closely monitored all intercepts flooding in from the area; examined the
latest overhead photography; and analyzed data from an early-warning
satellite 22,300 miles above the equator. This satellite would have been
first to spot the missile's rocket plume and signal back to earth that a
launch had occurred.



422
DEFSMAC would then have flashed the intelligence to one of the
specially designed Boeing 707s that on such missions are codenamed
Cobra Ball. Fitted with a wide array of receiving equipment, the RC-135
aircraft would immediately have begun eavesdropping on the missile's
telemetry as it reentered the atmosphere near its target zone on the
Kamchatka peninsula. Through its super-wide windows, Cobra Ball
would also have photographed the missile in flight, using high-speed and
multispectral photography. Also receiving DEFSMAC intelligence,
whenever enough warning time was received, would be the USNS
Observation Island, which is packed with antennas and satellite dishes
that would monitor and photograph the final stage and splashdown of
the missile. Such preparations would have been of little use during the
October 1998 test, however. The rocket, of a type that is the centerpiece
of Russia's shrinking nuclear shield, exploded shortly after launch.
Working closely with DEFSMAC is NSA's National Telemetry
Processing Center, the final destination of intercept tapes from missile
tests. Here analysts study the various measurements on the magnetic
tapes, identify the transducers, and develop performance estimates for
the missiles and spacecraft. In 1969, the center took delivery of its first
large-scale telemetry processor”twenty-two racks of whirring equipment
codenamed Tellman. In the early 1980s, Tellman was replaced by
Rissman, which had just fifteen racks of equipment and at the same time
could process a greater variety of signals. Rissman was a busy
machine”often processing tapes around the clock”from the day of its
delivery until the end of the Cold War. By the 1990s, it had been retired
and in its place was a relatively compact telemetry processing system
codenamed Outcurve, consisting of four racks of equipment and a
sixteen-megabyte memory.


Down Corridor C in OPS 1, past the drugstore and Bank of America,
is Crypto City's medical center, staffed by an emergency medical
response team. Nearby is an urgent care unit, where ambulances
occasionally come and go. NSA even has its own mobile medical center to
take medical services to people in distant parts of the city so they don't
have to come to the clinic. The large, streamlined, bus-sized vehicle can
accommodate wheelchairs and even has its own examination room with
table. It is equipped to perform a variety of tests, including EKGs. As
might be expected, the mobile medical unit is equipped with secure
telephones and cell phones for communicating with the various
buildings.
Nearby, in Room 1E145, is the Geographic Library, containing a
unique collection of worldwide maps, many on CD-ROM. Analysts can
also access these digital maps directly at their workstations through the
library's Automated Mapping System. Among the products developed by


423
NSA is a high-resolution interactive geographic-based software system
codenamed Oilstock. It is used to store, track, and display near-real-time
and historical signals-intelligence-related data over a map background.
A short distance away on the South Corridor, near the drugstore and
barbershop, is NSA's Main Library. It contains probably the world's
largest collection of cryptologic materials. It also holds a major collection
of foreign telephone directories, very useful in finding key telephone
numbers to target. Nearby are the Main Research Center and Digital
Library.
Walking along the long, broad hallways, one passes the Crisis Action
Center, the Advanced Reconnaissance Programs Office, and the Office of
Unconventional Programs, where chief Coy R. Morris attempts to
penetrate targets not accessible by conventional means. In 1999 Morris
was awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Civilian Service
Award for amassing "an astounding record of successful operations."
Also in OPS 1 is the National Signals Analysis Center (NSAC). Before
an encrypted message can be broken, it first has to be found, and that is
the job of the NSAC's engineers, mathematicians, and computer
scientists. They locate important streams of communications, whether
hidden in thin air or in a blanket of noisy static. "With today's rapidly
evolving global communications, NSA's signals analysts are seeking to
recover, understand, and derive intelligence from all manner of foreign
signals," says one NSA document. Another adds: "Consider that
hundreds or thousands of channels of mixed information types may be
multiplexed together and transmitted digitally over a satellite or
terrestrial link to form a single signal."
Flowing between earth stations and distant communications satellites
are millions of telephone calls, fax transmissions, television signals, and
computer and multimedia data transfers. They are all squeezed together
in thousands of channels. Once they have been intercepted by NSA, it is
up to the signals analysts to untwist them and make them
understandable. "Demodulating and unraveling the internal structure of
such complex signals, to recover their information content and related
data, is one job of the signals analyst," according to NSA. Other signals,
such as covert communications, may be deliberately hidden deep within
such signals as television transmissions, or broken into thousands of
jigsawlike pieces and sent on hundreds of different channels. They may
even be spread so thin as to be almost invisible. Within the center, many
of the signals analysts have had multiple tours at overseas listening
posts. Once a year, at NSA headquarters, there is a week-long conference
to discuss new ways to discover, and eavesdrop on, the elusive signals.
Within these hallways, offices are protected by heavy steel doors
containing a variety of padlocks, combination dials, and cipher locks.



424
Some doors also bear round, color-coded seals. A red seal indicates an
"Exclusion Area"”an office containing what one NSA document calls
"extremely sensitive (i.e., compartmented) classified materials or
activities" [emphasis in original]. All classified documents, when not in
use, must be kept locked in safes. Blue seals indicate areas where the
volume of sensitive materials is so great that some may be left out on
desks provided they are covered "completely by a black cloth."
During the Christmas season employees compete to see who can
come up with the most original door decorations. In 1999, the door to
Room 1W070 in OPS 1 bore a replica of a signals intelligence spacecraft
entitled "The Malfunctioning Santallite."
To enter other offices, such as the NSA's Special Processing
Laboratory, a person must first pass through a complex, unmanned
station known as a High Security Portal. After entering a glass-enclosed
booth, the person wishing to go farther must swipe a security badge
through a credit card”like reader. The computer then checks the
person's name against an access list known as CONFIRM.
Next an eye scan is performed, providing for positive identification by
recording the pattern of blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the
eye, and comparing it with the person's pattern as stored in the
CONFIRM database. An individual's retina is unique and does not
change during his or her life. Finally, load cells take body weight
measurements and once again check them against the CONFIRM system
to ensure that only one person is inside the portal. Only after everything
matches can the door be opened.
NSA is continually developing more and more complex biometric
identification systems. "Using biometrics for identifying and
authenticating human beings offers some unique advantages," said Jeff

<<

. 74
( 118 .)



>>