When it failed to reach a budget agreement on Monday, the federal government was forced to suspend non-vital functions such as national parks. Yesterday government employees across the nation were instructed to report to work and wait for further instruction. Those employees deemed non-essential were given one to four hours to leave out of office messages on their office voicemails and email accounts and pack up their things. As important as the National Security Agency (NSA) and its surveillance programs are supposed to be, it turns out that staff of the NSA aren’t deemed any more critical to the nation’s wellbeing than the director of the Smithsonian, and were likewise sent home for the government shutdown.
NSA staff were given a letter (below) informing them they’d been furloughed. Though the letter states that staff that work on “activities required for national security, including the safety of human life or the protection of property,” some NSA staff were still sent home. It turns out not everyone in the Agency is looking out for our safety, huh?
NSA Furlough Letter
The letter was shared with Forbes by one agency employee. It’s not apparent how many members of the NSA were told to pack their things, but Forbes reports that two of its NSA contacts “didn’t know of any fellow staffers who hadn’t been sent home,” their colleagues coming from the Signals Intelligence group, the Information Assurance Division, and the agency’s research division.
Recently a secret government surveillance program, PRISM, was uncovered, revealing that the NSA monitors the online and cellphone activity of civilians. As a result, PRISM Anxiety Disorder spread like wildfire across the country, our fingers hesitating to search for terms as simple yet provacative as “pressure cookers.” Though it’s a shame we can’t visit national parks while the government is shut down, and visiting Washington, D.C. any time soon would be a waste, it’s a relief to be able to return to our pre-PRISM selves in the meantime.
Image by Marina Noordegraaf