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The Longest Now

NSA Style Guide
Thursday April 08th 2004, 4:28 pm
Filed under: popular demand

NSA Rice’s recent public statement to the 9/11 commission offers some information on updates to national style guides as regards terrorism and security.

1. Embargo, embargoes, “embargoed“: appropriate for documents


2. Titles:  “NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISORappropriate for formal public use.

3.  When referring to people and groups who attack civilized nations, “freedomhating” may be used in blanket statements to clarify “terrorist”.

Long before that day, radical, freedomhating terrorists declared war on America and on the civilized world.

4. Recently, we have joined war with terrorists, indefinitely.  This particular war, unlike terrorism as a whole, has been going on for 20-30 years...

The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them. For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered…  And under President Bush’s leadership, we will remain at war until the terrorist threat to our Nation is ended.

5. …and is most closely related to the previous World Wars:

Despite the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 and continued German harassment of American shipping, the United States did not enter the First World War until two years later. Despite Nazi Germany’s repeated violations of the Versailles Treaty and its string of provocations throughout the mid-1930s, the Western democracies did not take action until 1939. The U.S. Government did not act against the growing threat from Imperial Japan until the threat became all too evident at Pearl Harbor. And, tragically, for all the language of war spoken before September 11th, this country simply was not on a war footing.

6. There is no “e” in “al-Qaida“, a term which may be retroactively applied to all Saudi and Afghani terrorist groups discussed by the Administration (“At the beginning of the Administration…“) in the two years immediately preceding 9/11.

We wanted to ensure there was no respite in the fight against al-Qaida…  It was the very first major national security policy directive of the Bush Administration -– … the elimination of al-Qaida.

7. When discussing people and groups that have taken the fall to save institutional face, take care to remain excessively polite.  “Mismanaged by” –> “chaired by”, “weakest link” –> “nerve center”, etc.

For the essential crisis management task, we depended on the Counterterrorism Security Group chaired by Dick Clarke to be the interagency nerve center.

8. When discussing our fair Nation, capitalization is appropriate.  When assessing its future, a horizon of a few decades suffices for even the grandest visions.

In the aftermath of September 11th, those were the right choices for America to make — the only choices that can ensure the safety of our Nation in the decades to come.

Thank you for attending to this update.

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