Förderverein Informationstechnik und Gesellschaft

NSA Means and Methods

------- Forwarded Message Follows -------
Date:          Mon, 11 Jan 1999 11:39:56 -0500
From:          John Young <>
Subject:       NSA Means and Methods

Seymour Hersh reports on NSA means and methods
stolen by Jonathan Pollard for the Israelis in the January
18 issue of The New Yorker:  (43K)


The data passed along by Pollard included detailed
information on the various platforms -- in the air, on
land, and at sea -- used by military components of the
National Security Agency to intercept Israeli military,
commercial, and diplomatic communications. At the time
of Pollard's spying, select groups of American sailors
and soldiers trained in Hebrew were stationed at an
N.S.A. listening post near Harrogate, England, and at a
specially constructed facility inside the American
Embassy in Tel Aviv, where they intercepted and
translated Israeli signals. Other interceptions came from
an unmanned N.S.A. listening post in Cyprus. ...

The men and women of the National Security Agency
live in a world of chaotic bleeps, buzzes, and whistles,
and talk to each other about frequencies, spectrums,
modulation, and bandwidth -- the stuff of Tom Clancy
novels. They often deal with signals intelligence, or
SIGINT, and their world is kept in order by an in-house
manual known as the RASIN an acronym for
radio-signal notations. The manual, which is classified
"top-secret Umbra," fills ten volumes, is constantly
updated, and lists the physical parameters of every
known signal. Pollard took it all. "It's the Bible," one
former communications-intelligence officer told me. "It
tells how we collect signals anywhere in the world." The
site, frequency, and significant features of Israeli
communications -- those that were known and targeted
by the N.S.A. -- were in the RASIN; so were all the
known communications links used by the Soviet Union. ...

The ten volumes of the RASIN were available on a
need-to-know basis inside the N.S.A. "I've never seen the
monster," a former senior watch officer at an N.S.A.
intercept site in Europe told me, but added that he did
supervise people who constantly used it, and he
described its function in easy-to-understand terms: "It is
a complete catalogue of what the United States was
listening to, or could listen to -- information referred to
in the N.S.A. as 'parametric data.' It tells you everything
you want to know about a particular signal -- when it
was first detected and where, whom it was first used by,
what kind of entity, frequency, wavelength, or band
length it has. When you've copied a signal and don't
know what it is, the RASIN manual gives you a

[End excerpts]