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Frequently Asked Questions
Terms and Acronyms

CIPHER - A system for concealing plain text by transposing the letters or numbers or by substituting other letters, numbers, or symbols according to a key.

CODE - A system for replacing words, phrases, letters, or numbers with other words, phrases, or groups of letters or numbers for concealment or brevity.

COMINT - Communications Intelligence - Information obtained for intelligence purposes from the intercept of foreign communications by other than the intended recipient.

COMPUSEC - Computer Security - The protection of computers from exploitation by unauthorized users.

COMSEC - Communications Security - The protection of communications from exploitation by unintended recipients. This includes ensuring the security of cryptosystems, preventing electronic emissions from various communications' equipment, and physically protecting communications' equipment.

CRYPTOLOGY - The science and art of making and breaking codes and ciphers.

CRYPTOGRAPHY - The science and art of making codes and ciphers.

CRYPTANALYSIS - The conversion of encrypted messages into plain text without having the initial knowledge of the key used in encryption.

CSS - Central Security Service - The CSS comprises U.S. military cryptologic elements - Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Marines - and works to ensure a full partnership between NSA and the military.

CYBER - a prefix used to describe a person, thing, or idea as part of the computer and information age. Cyber Warfare is defined as a war fighting discipline that integrates instruments of military power to achieve and sustain U.S. superiority in network communication through the integrated planning, execution, and assessment of offensive and defensive capabilities.

DECODE - To convert from an encoded message to equivalent plain text.

DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE - The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) serves as the head of the Intelligence Community, overseeing and directing the implementation of the National Intelligence Program and acting as the principal advisor to the President, the National Security Council, and the Homeland Security Council for intelligence matters related to the national security.

DIRNSA - The Director of the National Security Agency. (Also, the Chief of the CSS.)

ENCODE - To replace plain text words with code groups.

ENCRYPT - To conceal plain text by use of a cipher.

ELINT - Electronics Intelligence - Information obtained for intelligence purposes from the intercept of foreign electromagnetic non-communications transmissions by other than the intended recipient. The most common sources of this type of information are radar signals.

FISINT - Foreign Instrumentations Intelligence - Technical and intelligence information derived from the intercept of foreign electromagnetic emissions associated with the testing and operational deployment of non-U.S. aerospace, surface, and subsurface systems including, but not limited to, telemetry, beaconry, electronic interrogators, and video data links.

HPSCI - The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which provides oversight on NSA/CSS intelligence activities.

IC - The Intelligence Community (IC) is a federation of executive branch agencies and organizations that work separately and together to conduct intelligence activities necessary for the conduct of foreign relations and the protection of the national security of the United States.

INFORMATION ASSURANCE - The protection of information systems against unauthorized access to, or modification of, information, whether in storage, processing or transit, and protection against the denial of service to authorized users, including those measures necessary to detect, document, and counter such threats.

INTERCEPT - The acquisition of electromagnetic signals, such as communications, radio or radar, using electronic equipment or other means for the purpose of gathering intelligence information on foreign entities. The material collected itself is sometimes referred to as "intercept."

OIG - The Office of the Inspector General, which is charged with internal oversight of NSA/CSS.

OPSEC - Operations Security - The process of denying potential adversaries any information about capabilities and/or intentions by identifying, controlling, and protecting generally unclassified evidence of the planning and execution of sensitive activities.

NSA - The National Security Agency - The agency in the Intelligence Community responsible for the protection of U.S. information systems and the production of foreign signals intelligence information.

NSC - The National Security Council - A governmental body specifically created to assist the President in integrating all spheres of national security policy.

NSCID - National Security Council Intelligence Directive - Instructions issued by the NSC. NSCID 9 established NSA, and several other NSCIDs provide regulations to NSA/CSS missions.

NSS - National Security Staff - A governmental body that assists the President on issues of domestic and national security, to include counterterrorism. The NSC was formed when the President integrated the Homeland Security Council and National Security Council.

SIGINT - Signals Intelligence - Information which contains communications intelligence (COMINT), electronics intelligence (ELINT), and foreign instrumentation signals intelligence (FISINT), either individually or in combination, however transmitted.

SSCI - The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which provides oversight on NSA/CSS intelligence activities.


Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: Jan 14, 2011 | Last Reviewed: Jan 14, 2011