Hey, kids: Let the NSA teach you codebreaking

The agency's CryptoKids website features cartoon characters like Decipher Dog and instructions on constructing 'your own cipher disk.'

By Jonathan Berr Jun 13, 2013 10:37AM
Screenshot of the kid's section of the NSA's website (© National Security Agency)All the revelations about the National Security Agency's prying into millions of people's not-so-private-anymore communications certainly have folks worried. But the NSA makes sure it presents a friendly face to kids at a website aimed specifically at them. It's called America's CryptoKids, Future Codemakers & Codebreakers, where children can find out why cryptology is "so cool."

It turns out that the NSA is just one of the many government agencies that spend a surprising amount of time and taxpayers' money trying to win the hearts and minds of the nation's youngest citizens through Web-based cartoon characters.
At the NSA site, little ones can follow the adventures of America's CryptoKids, including Crypto Cat and Decipher Dog, which Zero Hedge recently mocked. The NSA has another site for kids called "Change the World" that features puzzles they can solve and instructions on how to "construct your own cipher disk."

The NSA is following the federal government's lead that starts at the kids.gov site, which features games and videos along with tips about different "cool" government jobs. From that site, children (and parents and teachers) can get to an astounding 2,500 kid-friendly government sites. Even agencies that aren't exactly warm and fuzzy such as the Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Defense have content aimed at kids.

And top secret, spy-stuff fun doesn't stop at the NSA's CryptoKids. A cartoon lady decked out in a trench coat and fedora who appears to be answering a shoe phone "Maxwell Smart-style" can be found on the CIA's Kids Page (her identity appears to be confidential).

Another gang of scamps hangs out at the U.S. Mint's website, h.i.p. pocket change, led by Peter the Mint Eagle and his pals Flip the Mint Seal, Bill the Mint Buffalo, Pinky the Mint Pig and Nero the Mint Police Dog. Interestingly, there really was a bald eagle named Peter who lived in the Philadelphia Mint in the early 19th century.

The FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine teaches kids about animal health through a variety of characters including Jazz the dog and Mozart the cat. It even offers some poetry, such as this ditty: "Mozart, he meows all day. The flea collar on his neck is registered at the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)."

Let's not forget the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Nuclear FHIZ Kids, also known as Fiona, Horace, Ira and Zoe. They're "mythical characters who came into existence through the process of nuclear fission," according to the NRC.

The EPA's Flat Stanley and Flat Stella, who teach kids about the environment, aren't so mythical, though they are kind of cute. For that matter, so is the Hawaiian-shirt-wearing blue surfer bug found on the Department of Energy site, who, alas, doesn't have a name.

Since taxpayers paid to develop these characters, parents might as well use them. And if your kid has an affinity for making ciphers, the NSA will probably know about it before you do.

Follow Jonathan Berr on Twitter @jdberr.

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Jun 13, 2013 10:56AM
The NSA is smart enough to know that if you program kids from an early age, they will never question anything you do.
Jun 13, 2013 2:06PM
"Decipher Dog sez "Hey kids, email me and tell me how many guns your parents own and tell me if you have ever heard you parents talk about Tea Parties, Patriots, or how bad the government is."
Jun 13, 2013 1:50PM
Someone once said "Give me the child until he is seven and I will give you the man".
Jun 13, 2013 2:13PM
Reminds me of the young 'brownshirts' of the 'Nazi Youth'.........
Jun 13, 2013 1:55PM

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on
a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of
it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people
don't want war neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in
Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the
country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to
drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist
dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no
voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.
That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked,
and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the
country to danger. It works the same in any country."  - Hermann Goering


Yes, and you start working on the kids first, just like religion does.

Jun 13, 2013 2:07PM

My tax dollars went to 2500 government websites aimed at amusing/winning over kids?  Are you kidding me? 

Jun 13, 2013 2:10PM
Nothing like recruiting them young right? what next? Double bonus points for turning in a family member? *shakes head*
Jun 13, 2013 2:19PM
I love the NSA, after all they are watching and listening as we speak.   
Jun 13, 2013 2:21PM
Government indoctrination at its lowest!
Jun 13, 2013 2:16PM
I guess you start there and work your way up to lie, cheat, steal and voyeurism.
Jun 13, 2013 2:22PM

Let the indoctrination begin.  This is how to be obedient slaves to a corrupt system.

Jun 13, 2013 2:26PM
You will love the State my brave, Young Pioneers. Tell us what Mommy and Daddy say about us. We must correct their thinking. 
Jun 13, 2013 2:43PM
Yes, we must make sure that all the little future tax victims/benefits recipients are well acquainted with the benevolence of their federal perpetrator/benefactor at a young enough age to keep them from ex patriating, or whatever it is they are going to have to do to escape tyranny/poverty.   
Jun 13, 2013 2:38PM
Some things in life are NOT all that popular with the PUBLIC.

Perhaps there's a DEFICIT of actual footsoldiers in the 'darker arts.'
Jun 13, 2013 2:56PM

Its like Mcgruff the snitch dog from my generation.

Jun 13, 2013 3:25PM
Thank God my kids are all adults and they have minds of their own. I don't need my kids to say anything for me, I can do that well on my own.  I am not in favor of what the Government is doing to us. I feel it is great to watch for Terrorists, although, the system has gone way past what it was originally suppose to do for the people.  Just think if in time we get a President that would like to be Communist, what would happen if they had all this information on each of us? A little something to think about.  Next we will be micro-chipped.
Jun 13, 2013 5:50PM
I don't have a problem with this. We need more scientists and mathematicians in this country. Somebody has to push for it.
Jun 13, 2013 5:27PM
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