Some of you had literally never heard about the National Security Agency (NSA) prior to recent revelations that they are so far up your ass that you can text them to find out the next time you can expect to take a shit. So what's it like to work at the NSA? Apparently it's really, really weird. At least that's the impression you get from Cryptolog, the NSA's bizarre internal journal that has the look and feel of something printed on the back of a Chuck E. Cheese's place mat. Old issues of the magazine were recently declassified and uploaded to the Web, and the thing is like Highlights, but dumber. In the average issue you could find ...
#4. Graphics Apparently Intended for Toddlers
Whatever the NSA does, it must be serious business, because until very recently you almost never heard about them at all, while CIA operations became the stuff of constant headlines and blockbuster films. So we're talking about people who handle shit so sensitive that Hollywood barely even knows how to make a movie about them. You imagine a world of windowless rooms and retina scans, agents quietly mining phone records for signs of a terror plot. So the NSA's internal magazine must have been a series of terse commands in a stark black font under warnings that leaking it could result in Armageddon. Right?
Or it could look like this:
NSA Vol. 1
Oh, I get it, the drunk Russian threw a cassette at the swimming German. While a cheetah laughed.
But even that shining example of '70s line art displayed far too many fucks for the NSA. At one point they let an author tape a pen to his flaccid penis and draw stick-figure comics. Do you think we're joking?
NSA Vol. 46
OK, so it probably wasn't flaccid the whole time.
So what kind of content was being presented with that childish artwork?
#3. Puzzles That Belong in the Back of People Magazine
Among the few things we know about the NSA is that they're the world's best code breakers. In fact, in the movie Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon gives a whole speech about why he can't waste his brilliant mind solving codes for the NSA because they're the NSA and they probably kill people. But the important fact here is that they figure out secrets and they're the best at what they do. So why in the goddamn hell would their internal magazine publish puzzles so simple that they only require a basic understanding of the ultimate code -- the alphabet?
"What's a three-letter word for 'Fuck your privacy'?"
And below is a fun puzzle that this shadowy all-seeing spy agency calls "the stinky-pinky":
According to the NSA, it "makes a great game for children on long trips."
NOTE: If you are arrested by the NSA and hear them mention that they intend to give you the stinky-pinky, we do think that you should still be worried.
Although we're starting to suspect that Big Brother can't even tie his shoes.
#2. Terrible, Terrible Jokes
So maybe the art and creative departments for Cryptolog thought printer toner and gin made a perfectly acceptable dirty martini. But the content must have had some sort of professional voice to it, right? Right? Not really, the NSA is hysterical. Here's a bit from the first paragraph of their first magazine. We didn't need to change anything:
"Everyone knows that traffic analysts are clear-eyed, clean-limbed people who draw meticulously neat -- if arcane -- squares and circles on paper, and the cryppies are two-headed people who tend to twitch. The machine people are those pale ones who inhabit, like troglodytes, the bowels of the basement. Collectors are -- uh -- aren't they the can-clangers who come around three times a week with a truck?"
It's like every nerd joke ever, minus Cheeto dust.
NSA Vol. 19
The NSA gets its jokes from the magical comedy anteater.
In a 1975 issue dedicated to the failures and information gained from the NSA's time in Vietnam, there's this hilarious grammar commentary:
Fuck terrorism, apostrophes are America's greatest enemy.
#1. The Only Thing the NSA Did Better Than Spying Was Misogyny
We've seen enough episodes of Mad Men to know that women couldn't expect a fair shot in the workplace before August of 1986. But it's one thing to know in your head that things used to be different, and another to see the writers behind Cryptolog go out of their way to insult the women who worked for them. In this section, a simple call for writers turns into a two-fold cheap shot: 1) all the women who work at the NSA must be secretaries and 2) their work is boring and unimportant.
Got a project? Submit it to the NSA so 2,500 whole readers can know about it!
"We'll be honest, all but about 12 of them are skimming it."
On the other hand, at least the NSA wasn't as bad as the intelligence community used to be. In the June/July 1976 issue, a member of the cryptoanalyst hiring department found out that only 16 years before, a colleague declared that he'd never hire a woman for intelligence work because he'd never met a woman who could keep secrets.
Because the men of the NSA are just gangbusters at keeping things secret.