How did a military institution created to detect Soviet nuclear attacks and retaliate end up with a tradition of tracking Santa every Christmas Eve?
"The NORAD Tracks Santa program began in 1955 after a phone call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.," the Armed Forces Press Service said. "The call was from a local youngster who dialed a misprinted telephone number in a local newspaper advertisement."
"The commander on duty who answered the phone that night gave the youngster the information requested -- the whereabouts of Santa. This began the tradition of tracking Santa, a tradition that was carried on by NORAD when it was formed in 1958."
What's supposed to be a charming tradition backfired on the U.S. government this year, in the context of the revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, with journalists turning the Santa tracker into a punch line.
"Idea, via @pbump: NSA tries to soften its public Image by "tracking" Santa's communications! Aww!" The Atlantic's Molly Ball, for instance, tweeted.