Just when you thought the NSA scandal couldn’t get any worse, it now appears that the secretive intelligence gathering agency has a special program in place to intercept letters to Santa:
The National Security Agency routinely intercepts children’s letters to Santa, internal agency documents have revealed.
The documents describe an operation known as MILK COOKIES, based out of Fort Meade and run in conjunction with the U.S. Postal Service. COOKIES is the interception of the letters while MILK feeds them through a complex series of algorithms to spot any hidden messages.
Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander had previously testified to Congress in 2011 that the NSA would occasionally collect letters addressed to Santa, but insisted that it was totally accidental and that no one was actually reading or storing them.
The NSA is prohibited from directly monitoring American citizens under both Executive Order 12333 and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. However, because the letters are addressed to the North Pole, which falls outside of U.S. territory, they are considered potential foreign intelligence signals which the NSA is authorized to intercept.
Four years later the NSA began MILK COOKIES in response to the Secret Santa program, which the agency initially thought was a Soviet operation after a flier for the program mistakenly replaced the picture of Santa with Karl Marx.
Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the NSA began an almost-relentless campaign to insert itself both legally and covertly into the Christmas spirit.
First the NSA managed to get language inserted into the PATRIOT Act which required Santa to file a flight plan with NORAD and submit to random TSA inspections at select chimneys. Then came the 2002 judgment in United States v. Kringle, when the NSA and the Justice Department ordered him to deliver multiple GPS devices to the location of Usama bin Laden and other high-ranking Al Qaeda leaders.
When Santa refused and was put on a no-fly list he briefly had to outsource all his American operations to Canada, which handles diplomatic issues for the North Pole.