Decoding the NSA: How the Agency Manipulates Language to Mislead the Public
August 1, 2013
When we as a species use language to communicate and engage with one another, we have a certain understanding that certain words mean certain things. That is the entire purpose of language, effective communication between human beings that can be easily understood. As a result, we should be able to assume that when government bureaucrats utilize words that are commonplace within society, that these words represent specific commonly understood meanings. That would be a huge mistake.
Jameel Jaffer and Brett Max Kaufman of the ACLU have compiled an excellent list of some commonplace words used by the NSA to mislead us into thinking they aren’t doing the bad things that they are actually doing. Words such as “surveillance,” “collect,” and “relevant.” From Slate:
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, has been harshly criticized for having misled Congress earlier this year about the scope of the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. The criticism is entirely justified. An equally insidious threat to the integrity of our national debate, however, comes not from officials’ outright lies but from the language they use to tell the truth. When it comes to discussing government surveillance, U.S. intelligence officials have been using a vocabulary of misdirection—a language that allows them to say one thing while meaning quite another.