WASHINGTON — From Monday evening through early Friday last week, the main computers of the National Security Agency failed, causing an unprecedented blackout of information at Fort Meade, Md., where intelligence intercepted around the world is processed, officials said over the weekend.
In what NSA said in a statement was a "serious computer problem," analytical reports from Fort Meade that turn intercepted foreign telephone, cable and radio messages into meaningful data for the government were halted for 72 hours, starting at 7 p.m. Monday. "Other NSA analysis kept flowing from other parts of the world," a senior intelligence official said, "but this was not a trivial" failure.
The computer shutdown was caused by a "system overload," one source said, and was not the result of a Y2K problem, sabotage or hackers invading the system. Another official, who described it as a "software anomaly," put knowledge of the cause more cautiously.
"As of now," he said, "there is no evidence other than this was a system stressed to meet day-to-day operational pressures.