The NSA's Thanksgiving Dinner Talking Points: A Play in One ActS

Today, purported talking points instructing NSA workers on how to effectively communicate with angry family members emerged on the internet. Following is an imagined conversation using said talking points. All emphasis is original to the document.


UNCLE TED - An NSA Employee

MOM - A mom

DAD - A dad

SON - A son

KEITH ALEXANDER - A family friend; the outgoing Director of the National Security Agency


Uncle Ted, Mom, Dad, Son, and Keith Alexander are seated at a Thanksgiving dinner.

DAD: So, Ted, how's work lately?

UNCLE TED: NSA's mission is of great value to the Nation.

DAD: Oh, for sure. I was just thinking since it's been in the news a lot...

UNCLE TED: NSA performs timely, actionable intelligence to political and military customers who use that information in a range of activities from decisionmaking to military operations.

DAD: ...

MOM: Honey, maybe Ted doesn't want to talk abou—

UNCLE TED: NSA performs its mission the right way—lawful, compliant, and in a way that protects civil liberties and privacy.

KEITH ALEXANDER: Pass the salt?

SON: Sure, Keith. Hey, anybody want to go to the zoo this weeke—

UNCLE TED: NSA does not target U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens unless that targeting is premised on finding of probable cause to believe that the person is a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power. NSA's activities are governed and constrained by law and policy. We operate under oversight by all three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive.

MOM: Ted, I think you're being a little defensive here.

UNCLE TED: NSA does not and will not steal industry secrets in order to give U.S. companies a competitive advantage.

DAD: Speaking of competitive advantages, I used nutmeg in the stuffing this year.

UNCLE TED: NSA does not and will not demand changes by any vendor to any product, nor does it have any authority to demand such changes.

DAD: So... you don't like the nutmeg?

UNCLE TED: NSA performs its mission exceptionally well. We strive to be the best that we can be, because that's what America requires as part of its defense in a dangerous world.

MOM: You don't have to shout, Ted, honestly.

SON: They've got new red panda cubs, I think two of them.

UNCLE TED: The people who work for NSA are loyal Americans with expert skills who make sacrifices to help protect the freedoms we all cherish.

DAD: Ted, please put the drumstick down.

MOM: Maybe you want to lie down for a minute?

UNCLE TED: The men and women of NSA take an oath to the Constitution. As private citizens themselves, NSA employees are acutely aware of the importance of upholding the Fourth Amendment, and they uphold it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

MOM: I don't think that's supposed to be literal, Ted.

SON: May I be excused?

UNCLE TED: NSA is committed to increased transparency, public dialog, and faithful implementation of any changes required by our overseers.

DAD: I think we should all excuse ourselves until Ted stops yelling into his mashed potatoes.

Dad, Son, Mom, and Keith Alexander all retire to the living room for a few rounds of Boggle.

UNCLE TED: We encourage the American Public to work with us to define the way ahead in balancing transparency and national security. We embrace public dialogue.


Full text of alleged NSA talking points below, via @csoghoian and @kgosztola

NSA Thanksgiving Talking Points