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NSAC: This Shadow Government Agency Is Scarier Than the NSA


If you have a telephone number that has ever been called by an inmate in a federal prison, registered a change of address with the Postal Service, rented a car from Avis, used a corporate or Sears credit card, applied for nonprofit status with the IRS, or obtained non-driver’s legal identification from a private company, they have you on file.

They are not who you think they are. They are not the NSA or the CIA. They are the National Security Analysis Center (NSAC), an obscure element of the Justice Department that has grown from its creation in 2008 into a sprawling 400-person, $150 million-a-year multi-agency organization employing almost 300 analysts, the majority of whom are corporate contractors. [A list of contractors known to be associated with NSAC can be viewed here.]

The Center has its roots in the Foreign Terrorist Tracking Task Force (FTTTF), a small cell established in October 2001 to look for additional 9/11-like terrorists who might have entered the United States. But with the emergence of significant “homegrown” threats in the late aughts, the Task Force’s focus was thought to be too narrow. NSAC was created to focus scrutiny on new threat, specifically on Americans, particularly Muslims, who might pose a hidden threat (the Task Force became a unit within NSAC’s bureaucratic umbrella). As Americans began traveling abroad to join al-Shabaab and then ISIS, the Center’s dragnet expanded to catch the vast pool of “youth” who also might fit a profile of either radicalism or law-breaking. Its mission runs the full gamut of “national security threats…to the United States and its interests,” according to a partially declassified Justice Department Inspector General report. That includes everything from terrorism to counter-narcotics, nuclear proliferation, and espionage.

NSAC not only has a focus beyond foreign investigations or terrorists, but in the past year-and-a-half, according to documents obtained by Phase Zero and extensive interviews with contractors and government officials who have worked with the Center and the Task Force, it has also aggressively built up a partnership with the military, taking on deep background investigations of foreign-born and foreign-connected soldiers, civilians, and contractors working for the government. Its investigations go far beyond traditional security “vetting”; NSAC scours certain select government employees, contractors and their affiliates, examining multiple layers of connected relatives and associates. And the Center hosts dozens of additional “liaison” officers from other government agencies, providing those agencies with frictionless access to private information about U.S. residents that they would otherwise not have.

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