Sunday, February 12, 2006


From the top-secret surveillance journal of NSA junior trainee Billy Dupard (aka "CryptoKid X-75409"), age 7, of Altoona, PA: Last nite me and Michaela turnd on the baby monater we stuck under the nite table in Mommy's room and we herd Mommy sayin her prares. "O God O God" she sed over + over, also "Give it to me" but she never sed what she wantd God to give her. Today we lookd at the picters from the vido camra we put beside the close hamper and it terns out Daddy was doin pushups on her the hole time. No wonder she never finishd her prares.

Annyway we were goin to arase the tapes as yusual till we got to the funy part ware Daddy kep askin Mommy if she woud shave the President for Vallentine Day and she kep sayin no. We thot there was somethin funy bout this part so we are uplodin both tapes to you, Decipher Dog, for ferther inallisis

Move over, McGruff. The trench-coated canine mascot of the National Crime Prevention Council has some youthful competition in the battle for the hearts and minds of America's children. Now in virtual training on the website of the National Security Agency are the CryptoKids, the code-makers and code-breakers of America's future.

The NSA, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, has seven CryptoKids in its trademarked menagerie, including Crypto Cat, versed in Navajo, the language of the storied code talkers of World War II; Decipher Dog, a cryptanalyst who learned the fine points of broadband networking from his stepmother, an NSA network engineer; T. Top, a turtle who knows how to design and build computers; and a language analyst named Rosetta Stone.

This Toys 'R' Us approach to spying is nothing new for the fifteen agencies that comprise the "intelligence community" of the US government, including the CIA, the NSA and the National Reconnaissance Office. In 1997 President Bill Clinton mandated that all government agencies set aside virtual space on their websites for child-friendly material. Today, these sites serve as recruiting portals for America's youth.

The CryptoKids were born in February 2004 within the bowels of Fort Meade and, according to Kwanza Gipson of the NSA public affairs office, were designed "strictly" to reflect only the official information contained within the main website. Of course, since the official stance of the agency concerning the recent warrantless wiretapping scandal has been to deny the program's illegality and to treat domestic spying as business as usual, this strict adherence to the office line conveniently recuses the CryptoKids from having to discuss the issue with children. After all, if General Michael Hayden insists that the program is not "domestic spying," as he did at the Washington Press Club recently, then what more could Sergeant Sam possibly add to the debate? . . . .

Back at CryptoKids virtual HQ, with a toothy, sugar-cube smile and a nineteenth-century electro-transmitter, an eagle named CSS Sam presides over Operation: Dit-Dah, one of the NSA's games for aspiring young snoops and narcs. Sam teaches Morse code and challenges players to decrypt various words and phrases. For those skeptical about the applicability of 160-year-old Morse code in the Internet age, Sam reminds them in a "fun fact" that "in the movie Independence Day, when all other ways of communicating had been destroyed, the survivors of the alien attack used Morse code to collaborate a counter-attack plan."

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