Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

These recently declassified NSA posters make our authoritarian dystopia seem fun

Recently, the NSA followed up on a 2016 request to release a bunch of interdepartmental posters from the 1950s and 1960s. Undoubtedly, it took a couple years to fulfill this request because of plain old governmental bureaucracy and red tape. But, it’s also possible the NSA was a little reluctant to release these posters because they’re, well, pretty fucking weird.

Even the cool cats down in Greenwich Village respect the hierarchy of command.
Photo: GovernmentAttic.org

It seems that, during the height of the Cold War, the National Security Agency spent the majority of their time and budget designing posters in every aesthetic known to man, each with their own Mad Men-esque tagline reminding government employees how important it is to keep their mouths shut. As Twitter user and university professor Alex Wellerstein points out, “the level of surreal whimsy is unexpected,” especially considering the type of nefarious shit the NSA is known to get up to. We can only assume that these dozens of posters represent some sad-sack government employee’s desperate attempt to make national security “cool.”

Nothing says, “Remember not to duplicate classified memos” like a poor facsimile of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever.

This one looks a bit like a Saul Bass poster for a movie that never existed, perhaps about a detective hunting down a barefoot burglar at the Monterey Pop Festival?


And this one is imbued with a bit of jovial, holiday charm, reminding you that both Santa and the federal government can see you when you’re sleeping.


Of course, some posters need no explanatory copy. Clearly, everyone in the NSA would have known what’s implied by this chilling image of a phone being hung by a tree.


(Seriously though, we have no fucking clue what this means.)

The entire collection of posters, all 136 of them, are available to view in PDF form thanks to the Freedom Of Information Act, which continues to provide us with proof that even the scariest government agencies have no idea what they’re doing most of the time.


Send Great Job, Internet tips to gji@theonion.com

Share This Story

About the author

Dan Neilan

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Have Fun — Will Travel.