National Cryptologic Museum, Fort Meade, MD

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Looking Backward at the NSA

The U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, was once so secret that insiders joked that its initials stood for No Such Agency. But Hollywood filmmakers searching for a malevolent force more secretive and more dangerous than the CIA have brought the NSA to public attention through films such as 1998’s Mercury Rising and Enemy of the State. And the NSA’s geeky mission of code making and breaking, electronic surveillance, wiretapping, Internet monitoring, and database mining seems increasingly relevant in this age of all-pervasive electronic communication.

Nevertheless, the day-to-day work of the NSA remains shrouded in mystery. That makes the NSA’s public museum, the National Cryptologic Museum, a surprising discovery. The museum opened in 1993 and is housed in an old motel just outside the NSA’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland.

The small museum was originally open to NSA employees only, and houses a superb collection of artifacts covering the history of codes and codebreaking. Entry to the museum is free of charge.

A great starting point for a visit is ...

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