For decades the mission of the NSA was to spy on the Soviet Union and its allies, or at least that was its primary mission. The Soviet Union broke up in 1990, and since then the mission of the NSA has been less clear. Now, twenty-three years since the Cold War, we find out that NSA has been active in the war on drugs, passing intelligence to the DEA to assist in the investigation and prosecution of drug offenders (in the US). More recently, the Snowden leaked documents have revealed that NSA is busy socially profiling Americans. They're using "metadata": phone records, email logs, banking and insurance information, voter registration rolls, etc...to create profiles of certain Americans, in the hopes of snagging foreign intelligence.
The information about social profiling has recently been reported on by the NYT. It was revealed months ago that essentially all Americans are subject to having their "metadata" scrutinized, specifically phone call records and email logs.
I like what Michael Ratner said on Democracy Now last summer, in regard to the expansive, abusive powers of the NSA (he's with the Center for Constitutional Rights and is Julian Assange's lawyer). He said, (paraphrasing) "For the purposes of national security, Americans are considered a foreign population." There's a lot of wisdom in that sentiment. Our military and intelligence complexes are in-between cold wars right now, so the US serves as a convenient test population for new forms of surveillance and whatever else the military and intelligence complexes come up with.
Being involved in the war on drugs, domestically, means that the NSA has been affecting change within the society. It was Reuters reporting that revealed this last summer--it revealed that NSA has been passing intelligence to the DEA since the late 1990's. Some might argue that this is positive change, but its change that's not supposed to happen.
On a separate but related track, here are some insights into military/intelligence culture and lifestyle from the Washington Post 'Top Secret America' series. Specifically, this is about military/intel "clusters" like Fort Meade, MD, Tampa, FL, etc...It's kind of eerie, kind of disturbing.
Referring to the Fort Meade cluster, where NSA is located:
"The schools, indeed, are among the best, and some are adopting a curriculum this fall that will teach students as young as 10 what kind of lifestyle it takes to get a security clearance and what kind of behavior would disqualify them. "
"Loudoun County, ranked as the wealthiest county in the country, helps supply the workforce of the nearby National Reconnaissance Office headquarters, which manages spy satellites...And Howard County, ranked third, is home to 8,000 NSA employees."
Common Dreams-NSA collecting private data to socially profile Americans