1975 October 29

First Time Ever: Head of National Security Agency (NSA) Testifies Before Congress


Prior to the post-Watergate investigations into abuses by the intelligence agencies, the National Security Agency (NSA), which began operating on November 4, 1952, was essentially unknown to the American public. The joke among insiders was that “NSA” stood for “No Such Agency.” The appearance of NSA Director Lt. General Lew Allen, Jr., before the Senate Church Committee (January 27, 1975) on this day marked the first public appearance of an NSA official and the first public acknowledgment that the agency existed.

The NSA was exposed as engaging in secret and illegal surveillance of Americans during both the presidencies of George W. Bush (December 16, 2005) and Barack Obama (June 5, 2013). The 2013 revelations were based on documents stolen and leaked to the media by former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden. The revelations from the Snowden-related documents led to the intelligence reform law on June 2, 2015 which marked the first time Congress actually scaled back U.S. intelligence gathering.

Learn more about the NSA: James Bamford, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America (2008)

And Bamford’s earlier book on the history of the NSA: James Bamford, The Puzzle Palace (1981)

Learn more about the Edward Snowden revelations: Luke Harding: The Snowden Files: The Inside Story of the World’s Most Wanted Man (2014)

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