Thursday, January 05, 2006

Blowing The Whistle On the NSA

We now have a profile of a former NSA official who has identified himself as a whistle blower and wants to testify from Bill Gertz in the Washington Times.
Russ Tice, a whistleblower who was dismissed from the NSA last year, stated in letters to the House and Senate intelligence committees that he is prepared to testify about highly classified Special Access Programs, or SAPs, that were improperly carried out by both the NSA and the DIA.
"I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency," Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times.
The letters were sent the same day that the New York Times revealed that the NSA was engaged in a clandestine eavesdropping program that bypassed the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. The FISA court issues orders for targeted electronic and other surveillance by the government.
Well we'll see what comes of it. But as for the former NSA official, dismissed last year. Did he leak to the NYTimes before he officially blew the whistle? In which case he is not protected. Or is this his first public outing about intelligence?

We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Orin Kerr, however, appears to think at this point, with limited insight into exactly what occurred in the program, that the NSA Surveillance Program is not so much data mining as a large-scale pen regsister/trap-and-trace or wiretap, a much less problematic operation legally speaking.

Back to the Gertz article:

Mr. Tice said yesterday that he was not part of the intercept program.
In his Dec. 16 letter, Mr. Tice wrote that his testimony would be given under the provisions of the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, which makes it legal for intelligence officials to disclose wrongdoing without being punished.
The activities involved the NSA director, the NSA deputies chief of staff for air and space operations and the secretary of defense, he stated.
"These ... acts were conducted via very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs," Mr. Tice said.
The letters were sent to Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, and Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican. Mr. Roberts is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Mr. Hoekstra is chairman of the House counterpart.
Spokesmen for the NSA and the Senate intelligence committee declined to comment. Spokesmen for the House intelligence committee and the DIA said they were aware of Mr. Tice's letters, but had not seen formal copies of them.
Well, the question is, if he is blowing the whistle this way, was he also the NYTimes/James Risen leaker? Or did they use someone else?

UPDATE:

Tom Maguire also tries to parse whether the fact that Mr. Tice appeals to the 1998 Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act shows that he is not the leaker. Like usual, he provides a wealth of questions and links to provide more context to the problem, including the fact that this issue with Mr. Tice surfaced on December 21/22 in BuzzFlash and the Dem Underground.

Macranger points out that if Mr. Tice first "testified" to Mr. Risen of the NYTimes before writing a letter to the correct committee, that the provisions of the law no longer covers him. He also suggests that Mr. Tice may be just another disgruntled former Intelligence Agent, pointing out that he was fired after raising an accusation about a coworker that she was a Chinese double agent. And misusing his security access to keep track of his co-employee.

Word is that his security clearance (because he was misusing infomation and looking with unauthorized peeks into the co-worker's background), was subsequently revoked - FOR CAUSE - or for those on the left - because he violated the terms of keeping a clearance.

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