Formed by Harry Truman in 1952, The National Security Agency, or NSA, is a United States intelligence agency responsible for global monitoring, collection, decoding, translation, and analysis of information and data for the purposes of foreign intelligence and counterintelligence.
The NSA is also responsible for the protection of U.S. government communications and information systems against penetration and network warfare. It is authorized to perform these duties through clandestine means, including bugging electronic systems and engaging in sabotage through subversive software. The NSA operates as part of the Department of Defense, though it also reports to the Director of National Intelligence.
Since its formation in 1952, the NSA has become one of the largest U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of budget and personnel. Beginning in June 2013, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began leaking internal NSA documents that disclosed the NSA’s extensive spying, both foreign and domestic, to the public. The documents revealed that the NSA intercepts telephone and Internet communications of over a billion people worldwide, seeking information on terrorism, foreign politics, economics, and commercial secrets. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled in December 2013 that the NSA’s “almost Orwellian” program violates the Constitution.