SNOOPGATE: A Whistle Blower Wants to Talk
A former National Security Agency official
wants to tell Congress about electronic intelligence programs that he asserts
were carried out illegally by the NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency. 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.
whistleblower asks to testify
Drum, the above story certainly has great timing. Tice was removed from his
job because he was supposedly “mentally unbalanced.” But that doesn't
seem close to the whole story.
Here's part of an 8.05 Vanity Fair article, which explains the
situation a little more fully.
… As I talked to whistle-blowers, I
had the impression that those treated the worst were among the brightest and
best. There could be no clearer example than Russ Tice, and 18-year intelligence
veteran who has worked for the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency
(D.I.A.) and American’s eavesdroppers, the National Security Agency.
“I dealt with super-sensitive stuff,” he says. “I obviously
can’t talk about it, but I had operational roles in both Afghanistan
It was at D.I.A. in the spring of 2001 that he wrote
a report setting down his suspicions about a junior collage, a Chinese-American
who Tice says was living a lavish lifestyle beyond her apparent means. Although
she was supposed to be working on a doctorate, he noticed her repeatedly in
the office, late at night, reading classified material on an agency computer.
“It’s not like I obsessed over the issue,” Tice says. “I
did my job, and then 9/11 happened, and I was a very busy boy.”
He moved to the N.S.A. toward the end of 2002. The
trigger for his downfall the following April was the arrest of Katrina Leung;
the F.B.I. informant accused of spying for China while having an affair with
a bureau agent. It prompted Tice to send a classified e-mail to the D.I.A.
security section, commenting that the Leung case showed that the F.B.I. was
“incompetent.” The implication was that the D.I.A. could prove
it’s competence by fully investigating the junior colleague.
Tice, a big, powerful man with a forthright manner,
has to pause to control his emotions when he describes what happened as a
consequence. “I was sent for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. I
took all the computer tests and passed them with flying colors. But then the
shrink says he believes I’m unbalanced. Later he said I’m suffering
from “paranoid ideation.” He was examined by an independent psychiatrist,
who “found no evidence of mental disorder.” But he had already
been denied access to secure places at N.S.A. As a result, this highly commended
technical-espionage expert was put to work in the N.S.A.’s motor pool,
“wiping snow off cars, vacuuming them, and driving people around. People
looked at me like I had bubonic plague.” (The D.I.A. did not respond
to a request for comment, and an agency spokesperson said the agency does
not discuss personnel matters.)
After about eight months of this purgatory, apparently
an attempt to persuade him to resign, he was placed on “administrative
leave.” Like other whistle-blowers, he tried to redress his treatment.
In August 2004, Tice wrote letters to members of the House and Senate. Six
days later, the N.S.A. began the formal process which would lead to his getting
fired, and to having his clearance revoked permanently. “What happened
to me was total Stalin-era tactics,” he says. “Everyone I know
or ever worked with says I’m perfectly sane. Yet I just don’t
know what to do next. I’ve been in intelligence all my life, but without
a security clearance, I can’t practice my trade.”
Inconvenient Patriot, Vanity Fair