NSA notes

A few notes before I sail off to the weekend.

NSA whistleblowers: Since my two recent stories on accusations the NSA used "psychiatric abuse" as a form of retaliation against employees came out, more sources are contacting me, with interesting info.

Antiwar.com picked up my stories and they also ran on GOPusa and Townhall (How's that for variety?) Interestingly, it seems no liberal outfits or even blogs (with one exception) have shown interest in the allegations of the whistleblowers (so far.) Danny Schechter posted it on his blog. (Danny and I hit it off after we wound up on the same podium at the NY Press Club, to give speeches against the repression of indie Chinese media.) As far as MSM goes, I know a producer of a major network news program found it very interesting. Time will tell whether they take it further.

There was deep skepticism over the upcoming Shays hearings on revocation of security clearances as a form of retaliation, because of the witness line-up. But their invitation to Tice to testify as well as his whistleblower coalition and one of their partner groups seems to have dissolved that particular concern for now. Sibel Edmonds, head of the National Security Whistleblowers Coaliton praised the development in an email to supporters Wednesday.
She also sent an email thanking me for the "terrific in depth article."

A note on whistleblowers in general - it boggles my mind that in this post-9/11 era, we're still punishing the messengers, many of whom, like Edmonds, Bogdan Dzakovic, Steve Elson, Anthony Shaffer, want to fix things and have critical information to do so. Instead, superiors who are dedicated to CYA kill the messenger. How much longer can we as a nation afford to continue doing this? Soon all the dross will rise to the top, and the gold will be drained out. Not a pretty picture.

NSA surveillance: First impression: I'm struck by how little we know about this controversy, and how adamant pundits are (on one side or the other.) The legal and technological questions need to be more specifically addressed...versus John Gibson of Fox News playing clips of people screaming during 9/11 to enforce why we need wiretapping! (Although his segment started ok.) That show featured Russ Tice. I might note, Gibson's producer pretty much hoodwinked me and Tice in order to get Tice's phone number from me. They were supposedly going to be discussing my story, instead, they got Tice on and had callers call in to say whether he was a "leaker" or a "whistleblower." No light was shed on anything. (Gibson did read --or rather stumble--over a few sentences of my story, and immediately left the topic as soon as he could).

What was really pathetic, was Gibson had my story in front of him, and read off names of 2 of my NSA sources --Diane T. Ring and Thomas B. Reinbold --asking Tice whether they were the leakers to the New York Times. It was clear Gibson had not even read my story. But he's asking on the air whether they're guilty of what he seemed to portray as a crime. So now, every NSA source is a "leaker" to the NYT? The really idiotic thing about this is, one of my sources who Gibson named, is a staunch Bush supporter who supports the surveillance program! I should also note most of the sources I spoke to loved working at the NSA, believed what they were doing was critical and that the agency is in the business of saving lives.

Tice talked about the FBI following him, and after he was off the show Gibson talked about how they might have a scoop! Seems like the scoop they want is to see is Tice frog-marched off to the pokey. Tice had already told me about the FBI following him. In fact, he met Ring (one of my other sources)last week in a Rite-Aid parking lot in Md. to get his fax machine back from her. He had lent it to her, and needed it to fax me some documents. They say they believe an FBI agent in a SUV was following, and watching them. So they went up, knocked on his window, and introduced themselves. Tice also said the FBI showed up at his building last Friday and buzzed up. They said they needed his help, Tice said, and he asked "Do you have a warrant for my arrest?" "No," they reportedly answered. Then he hung up on them.

Instead of sensationalism, let's have some intelligent discussion about the law and technology. This debate is still in the shallow part of the swamp, and that goes for both sides.

Places to look:

  • Transitions 2001, the NSA report which warns the incoming Bush admin that digital tech and fat data pipes mean the admin must rethink its policies and "authorities" that kept the NSA in compliance with the 4th Amendment.
  • The USSID18 (reformulated in 1993).
  • Presidential Executive Order 12333.
  • Legal concepts/interpretations of "reasonableness" and "balance" as applied to the balance the NSA tries to strike between national security pressures and the 4th Amendment.
  • The "emergency situations" and "anomalies" provisions of USSID18.

Have a great weekend everyone.