NSA logo risks

National Speakers Association Logo

Writing in today’s Washington Post Emily Wax-Thibodeaux highlights the oddball and usual gifts found in the gift shops of federal agencies like the DEA, CIA, Centers for Disease Control and National Security Agency. The tchotchkes on sale include NASA’s freeze-dried Neapolitan ice cream with a three-year shelf life; an inflatable NASA astronaut; sheets of $2 bills from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing; and a gavel-shaped pencil with a two-headed eraser from the Supreme Court.

The article does warn that some agencies also have safety concerns. After the Sept. 11 attacks, shops have been more careful about selling clothing with the insignia of national security and law enforcement agencies. These items could turn the wearer into a target of anti-American violence.

National Security Agency logo

At the NSA gift shop, near the National Cryptologic Museum, store manager Robin Bunch said she often thinks about this. So she typed up a warning and taped it to the wall:

“Although owning an NSA logo item does not necessarily imply that one is an NSA employee, it can raise a level of interest. Consider for example where the item will be worn/used and take into account local threat conditions.”

This might be something the members of the National Speakers Association (the other NSA, y’know, the one that SPEAKS, not LISTENS) might want to keep in mind. While our logo bears absolutely no resemblance to the other NSA and features a hand-help microphone with a cord, there are professional speakers who wear shirts, caps and bags they buy at conferences with the logo on. A past president of the Northern California chapter once told me he was boarding a flight wearing a golf shirt with an NSA logo when a guy in horn-rimmed glasses gave him a knowing wink and said “Remember back when we weren’t even able to tell people where we worked…”

It’s a case of Caveat emptor quid emeris aut circumdatio. Loosely translated: Buyer beware of wearing what you buy.

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