NSA Line Eater

What Does NSA Line Eater Mean?

The “NSA line eater” is a fictional creation of the USENET era. In the early days of the internet, newsgroup users collectively developed this urban legend that suggested the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was actively monitoring all posts, and that some type of surveillance tool was “eating up” random lines of various messages.


Techopedia Explains NSA Line Eater

The idea of the NSA line eater emerged because USENET users would occasionally see some lines of posts vanish seemingly at random. They might see text from one post or another cut off in parts. The theory was that NSA monitoring and surveillance software was clipping these random pieces out of USENET postings.

In response to the idea that the NSA was monitoring everybody, users started to form their own defenses. One common practice involved trying to flood or choke the NSA line eater by putting useless anarchic jargon into every post through signature blocks. Users would put words like Palestine, cocaine, assassin or KGB into their signature blocks to add these words every single post.

As the USENET era gave way to the modern era, the idea of the NSA line eater became obsolete, but people in today’s tech community can point to NSA programs that indicate there really is a full-scale monitoring program going on behind the scenes, which continues to be part of a controversy around U.S. security efforts.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…