Friday, December 23, 2005

Snoopgate: a Lonesome Whistle Blows

Here's an interesting story that hasn't hit the mainstream press yet.

Official Wire reports that Russ Tice, a former National Security Agency analyst has sent two letters to the Chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
Mr. Tice intends to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while he was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency (NSA) and with the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). These acts involved the Director of the National Security Agency, the Deputies Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations, and the U.S. Secretary of Defense, and were conducted via very highly sensitive intelligence programs and operations known as Special Access Programs (SAP). SAP programs and operations are more commonly referred to as “black world” programs and operations. Mr. Tice was a technical intelligence specialist dealing almost exclusively with SAP programs and operations at both NSA and DIA.

Mr. Tice stated: “As a Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) officer it is continually drilled into us that the very first law chiseled in the SIGINT equivalent of the Ten Commandments (USSID-18) is that Thou shall not spy on American persons without a court order from FISA. This law is continually drilled into each NSA intelligence officer throughout his or her career. The very people that lead the National Security Agency have violated this holy edict of SIGINT."


It is with my oath as a US intelligence officer weighing heavy on my mind that I wish to report to congress acts that I believe are unlawful and unconstitutional. The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.”

This could play large in the Snoopgate scandal, perhaps in a bizarre way. Mr. Tice has a stormy history with his former employer.

In May 2005, FEDERALTIMES ran a story on Tice's departure from the NSA.
Russ Tice, who spent nearly 20 years analyzing intelligence for the Air Force, Navy, Defense Intelligence Agency and NSA, will be fired May 16, said the nonprofit, nonpartisan group Project on Government Oversight. In 2001, Tice, who was then working at DIA, reported his suspicions that a co-worker might have been a Chinese spy, POGO said. Two years later, after Tice had transferred to NSA, an FBI investigation into the DIA co-worker prompted Tice to raise his concerns again.

POGO said that led to a series of retaliatory actions against Tice, such as a psychiatric evaluation that led to his security clearance being revoked. Tice was also assigned to unload furniture from trucks at a warehouse, which led to a back injury, and worked in the NSA motor pool for eight months chauffeuring agency officials and checking fluids, vacuuming and cleaning vehicles. This “unusually abusive retaliation” was an attempt to force Tice to resign, POGO said.

And in another retaliatory action, POGO said, NSA withdrew an award Tice received for his intelligence work during the Iraq war after he lost his security clearance.

Given the Bush administration's track record with whistle blowers, there's every reason to believe that Tice was a victim of unfair and "abusive" retaliation. But just now, there's no way of proving it. What's more, Tice appears to be especially vulnerable to the kind of personal smear campaign this administration has become so well known for.

The Pulse Journal also ran a story on the Tice firing that gave further details on the nature of the retaliatory measures taken against him.
In April 2003, Tice sent an e-mail to the DIA agent handling his suspicions about a co-worker being a Chinese spy. He was prompted to do so by a news report about two FBI agents who were arrested for giving classified information to a Chinese double agent.

"At the time, I sent an e-mail to Mr. James (the person at DIA handling his complaint) questioning the competence of counterintelligence at FBI," Tice wrote in a document submitted to the Inspector General. In the e-mail, he mentioned that he suspected that he was the subject of electronic monitoring.

Shortly after sending the e-mail, an NSA security officer ordered [Tice] to report for "a psychological evaluation" even though he had just gone through one nine months earlier. Tice believes James called NSA to ask them "to go after him" on their behalf.

When Tice called Mr. James to confront him about calling the NSA security official, he told Tice that "there was reason to be concerned" about his suspicion about his former co-worker.

The Defense Department psychologist concluded that Tice suffered from psychotic paranoia, according to Tice. "He did this even though he admitted that I did not show any of the normal indications of someone suffering from paranoia," Tice wrote in a statement to the inspector general.

For the time being, I'm perfectly willing to take Tice's story at face value. The notion of this administration using an ordered psychological investigation to discredit a whistle blower carries merit. Unfortunately, the very fact of a DOD psychologist diagnosing Tice as a psychotic paranoid damages his credibility. Congressional leaders and the mainstream press will likely balk at giving his claims credence unless a number of other NSA officials come forward to confirm his story.

And given the history of what's happened to whistle blowers during the Bush administration's tenure, how likely is that to happen?


  1. Wow! How soon will we learn that Russ Tice is reputed to have kiddie porn on his home computer, like they claimed with Scott Ritter?

    Great stuff, Jeff! Good work, and thanks for lifting up another corner of the rug.

  2. It's a multi-cornered rug.

    Orwellian. Rovewellian. Unimaginable.

    And yet...

  3. Why am I not shocked, SHOCKED?

    So typical of these fuckwads.