What Do An Over-the-Hill Pop Star and the National Security Agency Have in Common?

Is Engelbert Humperdinck, the pop-singer icon once described in his liner notes as “kind of like James Bond, only with more chest hair,” quietly exchanging e-mails with the super-secret National Security Agency?

America’s largest and most cryptic espionage organization indicated as much when it published new software security guidelines for federal agencies. An illustration of an NSA employee’s e-mail inbox showed two messages that Humperdinck ostensibly forwarded in July to the spy agency.

What could the government’s top code-breakers be discussing over the Internet with Humperdinck, 68, whose velvety voice scored hits in the ’60s and ’70s with “Release Me” and “After the Lovin'” and led hysterical female fans to throw undergarments on stage?

The NSA said it was only kidding.

“Instead of using fictitious names as we try to do, this time a celebrity’s name was used,” the agency said in response to tongue-in-cheek inquiries from The Associated Press. “There was no harm intended. We’ve removed the name from the page and will substitute it.”

The NSA pulled the security guidelines off its Web site, although the document still was circulating on other Web sites.

Humperdinck, known among friend as “Enge,” did not respond over more than two weeks to phone calls and e-mail messages from the AP to his personal assistant, his manager or official fan club.

Humperdinck, who grew up in Britain as the son of an army officer, picked up his unusual name in 1965 from the German opera composer best known for “Hansel and Gretel.” He’s sold more than 130 million records.

His autobiography, “Engelbert: What’s in a Name?,” published last month, recounts his turbulent celebrity life and 40-year marriage that endured what he describes as hundreds of adulterous affairs.

There were hints even in the NSA’s security document that it wasn’t really serious about exchanging e-mails with Humperdinck. It misspelled his name “Humperdink,” and another illustration showed the spy agency received an e-mailed document from “James T. Kirk,” the fictional captain from the “Star Trek” TV series and movies.

On the Net:

NSA: www.nsa.gov

Humperdinck’s fan site: www.engelbert.com

© 2005 The Associated Press