A pair of NSA recruiters reportedly visited the University of Wisconsin earlier this week to encourage students to consider a career at the spy agency.
However, their audience, mostly grad students and a few local high school students, was seemingly more informed – and argumentative – than the recruiters anticipated. Some of the students, including Madiha Tahir, had no problem calling them out over statements they claimed were severely inaccurate.
Tahir, a PhD candidate at Columbia University currently at the University of Wisconsin for the language program, reported that she spoke up about half an hour into the recruiters' presentation, challenging them on their use of the word "adversary" to describe seemingly all potential surveillance targets, therefore including European allies like Germany. They argued about syntax, and the back-and-forth continued: Students pressed the representatives to defend the legality of the agency's massive data collection programs, called them out on lies told by their superiors, and were asked, in response to the recruiters' descriptions of a fun-loving office culture, if NSA employees really "just dress up in costumes and get drunk?"
The lower-level NSA recruitment professionals clearly didn't go to the University of Wisconsin with the intention of fighting off a den of badgers, but the controversy over whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks gave students plenty of material to hurl at the first representatives of the agency they could find. It's apparently not easy -- and perhaps offensive to some -- to try to paint a pretty picture of your employer when they're at the center of a nationwide controversy.
"I don’t think we’re selling ourselves in an untrue fashion," one of the NSA recruiters said.
"Well, this is a recruiting session and you are telling us things that aren’t true," Tahir replied. "We also know that the NSA took down brochures and fact sheets after the Snowden revelations because those brochures also had severe inaccuracies and untruths in them. So, how are we supposed to believe what you’re saying?"
Mob and Multitude has a full transcript of the exchange here. Listen below: