Concerned at news reports on its electronic surveillance, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has held "an unprecedented series of off-the-record 'seminars' in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency's mission to spy on America's enemies," reports Josh Gerstein. The half-day seminars were held between 2002 and 2004 and featured "high-ranking NSA officials" suggesting "innocuous" re-writes of "objectionable passages in published stories." The seminars "seemed designed to elicit a chummy atmosphere," writes Gerstein, adding that the NSA's seminar talking points included: "Reporters go to great lengths to protect their sources, as do we. We need your help." Among the "offensive" stories were 1998 articles in the New York Times about possible Persian Gulf attacks suggested by intercepted conversations involving Osama bin Laden, and a Knight Ridder piece on "electronic intercepts of the traffic on bin Laden's communications network."
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