The NSA Has a Secret Advice Column for Its Paranoid Employees

Even having access to (nearly) all the information in the world doesn't mean you have all the answers. Which is, apparently, why the NSA created its very own, accessible-through-private-intranet-only agency-wide advice column. Because when you're working for the NSA, you can bet you're going to be paranoid as hell.

The Dear Abby ripoff entitled "Ask Zelda!", which The Intercept recently acquired, was written by an actual NSA official and accessible only to those with proper security clearance—or, at least it was until Edward Snowden snatched Zelda's wise words along with the rest of the NSA's secrets. And as The Intercept notes, one of the most interesting—and ironic—bits of advice come in response to an employee complaining of concerns that his boss might be invading his privacy.

Here's the scenario: when the boss sees co-workers having a quiet conversation, he wants to know what is being said (it's mostly work related). He has his designated "snitches" and expects them to keep him apprised of all the office gossip – even calling them at home and expecting a run-down! This puts the "designees" in a really awkward position; plus, we're all afraid any offhand comment or anything said in confidence might be either repeated or misrepresented.

....We used to be able to joke around a little or talk about our favorite "Idol" contestant to break the tension, but now we're getting more and more skittish about even the most mundane general conversations ("Did you have a good weekend?").This was once a very open, cooperative group who worked well together. Now we're more suspicious of each other and teamwork is becoming harder. Do you think this was the goal?

Interestingly, Zelda's advice verges more on prophecy than anything else, as her response urges that they "work in an Agency of secrets, but this kind of secrecy begets more secrecy and it becomes a downward spiral that destroys teamwork. What if you put an end to all the secrecy by bringing it out in the open?"

Well, Zelda certainly got her answer. Her advice to hit uncannily close to him:

If, after your attempts to bring things out in the open, it becomes clear that Michael is simply evil (some people live to stir up trouble), your best recourse may be to approach Michael's boss with the problem and perhaps Michael can be reassigned. Be sure to focus on the effect it's having on the team's work when you talk to his manager.

No one likes a tattle-tale

... Trust is hard to rebuild once it has been broken. Your work center may take time to heal after this deplorable practice is discontinued, but give it time and hopefully the open cooperation you once enjoyed will return.

Not all of Zelda's topics are so somber, though. Her inaugural column addressed beach attire in the workplace and her most popular column to date covered rules regarding "NSA swearing."

Whether or not Zelda was actually using her column as a thinly veiled attempt to offer the agency itself some unsolicited criticism isn't totally clear—from what we can tell, it seems relatively sincere. And who knows if it's even still running. One thing, though, is for certain—it's probably time for the NSA to start taking its own advice. [The Intercept]