I've encountered this word more often in the past two days than I have in the last decade. Probably the best synonym is embryonic. It was used by two different American spies for two very different purposes. Nascent is a word few Americans are familiar with, even I had to look it up to be sure of its meaning. It's one of those words used to obfuscate not illuminate.
|A nascent elephant|
FBI director Robert Mueller used the word as an excuse for the fact the while the FBI is using drones to spy on American citizens the FBI doesn't yet have any policies for directives for their use. Is some jealous FBI drone operator using one to stalk an ex-girlfriend? There certainly isn't any rule, regulation, or law forbidding it.
Yesterday, deputy NSA director Sean Joyce use to word to disguise the fact the "plot" to blow up the New York Stock Exchange was not a plot at all. A "nascent plot" is one that has not gotten beyond the "wouldn't it be cool if we..." phase of plotting.
Nascent is one of those go-to words for government spies trying to hide their activity.