The NSA just deleted "Honesty" as one of its Core Values

Who cares if "honesty" is a core value of the agency that has every text message or email you've ever sent, right?

Does it matter to you whether the nation’s spy agency, which collects every single thing you do online, has "Honesty" as a core value? It appears that the response from the National Security Agency (NSA) would be, “eh, not really.”

As recently reported by The Intercept, the NSA ever so quietly updated its Mission and Core Values page and, among several changes, deleted “honesty” as one of its core values. But, hey, who needs honesty, right? Particularly from the agency who has every text message or email or Facebook message you’ve ever sent.

So. We can’t count on honesty any longer as a core value of the NSA. At least they’re being honest about that. We can’t seem to count on honesty from other government agencies or politicians, either—should we be grateful that at least one snippet of the government is being honest about its lack of honesty? Let’s not think about that.

What else has been changed? They kept “Respect for Law,” “Integrity,” and “Transparency” (although, Negative Nellie that I am, I might ask: if they’ve broomed “honesty,” can we expect that they’ll be “honest” in their commitment for the Respect for Law, which, hello FISA courts, how much does that matter, anyway? We can apply the same question to “Integrity,” and "Transparency.” If there’s no honesty, can we count on integrity or transparency?).

But wait, there’s more.

For the core values they’ve not tossed in the trash, they’ve made some ever so slight alterations to a couple of them. Take “Transparency,” for example. The former definition essentially acknowledged that they’ll conduct themselves as if what they were doing might be done to them (like the Golden Rule). In the updated version, the “Transparency” they’re talking about is being transparent about the NSA’s mission and being transparent with “those who authorize and oversee NSA's work on behalf of the American people.”

Huh. Kinda lost that “Golden Rule” vibe.

What about the core value of “Integrity”? The previous definition (the old core values can be seen here) acknowledged that they understood the gravity of what they did and the trust the American People placed in them and that they, essentially, wanted to uphold that trust, indeed, “acting honorably.” The more modern definition of “integrity,” according to the NSA, has to do with the way they communicate what they’re doing, as well as “carrying out our mission efficiently and effectively.” Hey, that’s what we all think of when it comes to integrity, right? That we’re communicating what we’re doing well and doing it“efficiently and effectively”?

OK, so those aren’t so good. But what about the other shiny new core values of the NSA? Replacing “honesty” as its top core value is “Commitment to Service - 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.”

For sure, that’s so much better than honesty . . . in an agency that collects data on everyone.

But surely there’s got to be one improvement to their core values, hasn’t there? You’re in luck! Those swell chaps at Data-R-Us have added “Respect for People” as one of their core values--hooray!

It’s us, the American People, who are the people for whom they’re having the respect, right? Er . . . no. The people they will respect are “NSA personnel.” Especially if they have a “diverse background”—then they get extra respect.

I hope all of you naysayers who continually question and poo-poo the ever-expanding reach of the Federal Government (including the enormous NSA Data Center in Utah where all of your meta-data is stored) will finally shut your yaps. The government—in this case, the NSA—is just terrific! They are respecting themselves and their diverse backgrounds, communicating their mission efficiently and effectively, and they are “accountable” (although they’re not exactly forthcoming as to whom).

I think the main takeaway we can all get behind is this: The Founding Fathers were a bunch of idiots. Thomas Paine said, "Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it." OK, Cynical Sam. Tom Paine, here, lived in the 18th Century and had no concept of an NSA or the fact that they would be so honest that they could delete it as one of their core values.

As Thomas Groves, a spokesperson for the agency, told The Intercept: “It’s nothing more than a website update, that’s all it is.”

Move along, folks. There’s nothing to see here.

No. 1-3

Honesty in the espionage business?

Might actually be a bit of a handicap...


News flash! The NSA hasn't been honest for a long time, especially under the last administration. If you believe that the "honest" word rendered them Boy and Girl Scouts all, then you ignore Humpty Dumpty's maxim for Washington: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that's all.”


The watering down of "Integrity" worries me more than deleting honesty. The NSA is a spy agency. It may need to bend honesty to get its work done. However, exactly because of this need to bend honesty, spy agencies must operate with very strong integrity.

As a veteran, and as someone who in my civilian life has worked with former NSA employees and sold into NSA organizations, this makes me sad.

We seem to be trending more and more towards more and more, bigger and bigger, stronger and stronger, less accountable and less accountable government.