Special Collection Service, United States

Special Collection Service, United States

The National Security Agency (NSA) has a reputation as the most secretive major component of the United States intelligence community, but it is a veritable open book in comparison to one of its subsidiary organizations, the Special Collection Service (SCS). The latter is known to be engaged in communications intelligence (COMINT), primarily in hostile countries, and its personnel appears to include both NSA and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operatives.

So secretive that it is sometimes jokingly called "No Such Agency," NSA is home to an even more obscure group, the Central Security Service (CSS). Established in 1972 to provide information security to U.S. communications and crack other nations' codes and ciphers, CSS has within it—like a nesting matryoshka doll—the still more elite and clandestine SCS. Composed primarily of NSA specialists, SCS operatives typically use diplomatic cover in order to put in place eavesdropping equipment in areas where access to U.S. intelligence by less laborious means would be considerably more difficult.

In 1999, one United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) weapons inspector claimed that SCS had installed in-country radio relays for UNSCOM that greatly extended U.S. listening capabilities in Iraq. One of the few references to SCS by federal government sources was the affidavit in the 2001 case of accused spy Robert Hanssen, who was alleged to have provided the Russians with information about the organization.



Bamford, James. Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency: From the Cold War through the Dawn of a New Century. New York: Doubleday, 2001.

Polmar, Norman, and Thomas B. Allen. Spy Book: The Encyclopedia of Espionage. New York: Random House, 1998.


National Security Agency. < http://www.nsa.gov/ > (March 24, 2003).

Special Collection Service. Federation of American Scientists. < http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/scs/ > (April 2, 2003).


COMINT (Communications Intelligence)
Information Warfare
NSA (United States National Security Agency)
Satellites, Spy
SIGINT (Signals Intelligence)

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