Snowden's 'Proper Channel' For Whistleblowing Being Booted From The NSA For Retaliating Against A Whistleblower

from the proving-Snowden's-point-for-him dept

NSA oversight and whistleblowing through proper channels: both pretty much worthless.

Members of the intelligence community and members of its supposed oversight have said the same thing repeatedly over the past few years: oh, we’d love to cut Edward Snowden a break, but he should have taken his complaints up the ladder, rather than outside the country.

As if that would have resulted in anything other than Snowden being cut loose from his job and his security clearance stripped. The NSA’s Inspector General — supposedly part of the agency’s oversight — was even more harsh in his assessment of Snowden’s actions.

During a day-long conference at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr. George Ellard, the inspector general for the National Security Agency, spoke for the first time about the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In addressing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures he compared Snowden to Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent and convicted spy who sold secrets to the Russians.


“Snowden, in contrast, was manic in his thievery, which was exponentially larger than Hanssen’s. Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose. Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole,” Ellard suggested.

These are the words of the “proper channel.” Ellard went on to state that had Snowden approached him with his concerns he would have pointed to the series of judicial rubber stamps that backed up the government’s post-9/11 national security assertions as they approved more and more bulk surveillance.

That Inspector General — the official channels, the oversight — is now (mostly) on his way out of the agency for actions undertaken in direct conflict with his position, as reported by the Project for Government Oversight.

[L]ast May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

“Bring your complaints through the proper channels,” said the proper channel, all the while making sure whistleblowers regret blowing the whistle. Ellard still has an appeal left to reclaim his position as a dead end for whistleblowers, but it seems unlikely the agency will be interested in welcoming a liability back into the fold. Ellard didn’t just violate standard government policies on workplace retaliation but a fairly-recent presidential directive as well.

[The decision] was reached by following new whistleblower protections set forth by President Obama in an executive order, Presidential Policy Directive 19.

President Obama issued this in 2012, and it was put into force the next year, a few months before Snowden began dumping documents. The new directive created better protections but would have done nothing to aid Snowden in taking his complaints to the proper channels because he was only a government contractor, not an actual government employee.

It’s somewhat of a surprise that Ellard managed to get caught in this loosely-protective framework, suggesting whatever he did was fairly egregious. Officials of his stature rarely see retaliation claims against them substantiated. But that’s exactly what happened here.

Following PPD-19 procedures, a first-ever External Review Panel (ERP) composed of three of the most experienced watchdogs in the US government was convened to examine the issue. The trio — IG’s of the Justice Department, Treasury, and CIA – overturned an earlier finding of the Department of Defense IG, which investigated Ellard but was unable to substantiate his alleged retaliation.

Also receiving a bit more substantiation are Snowden’s claims that utilizing the proper channels within the NSA would have been fruitless — something that has been pointed out by earlier whistleblowers, nearly all of whom have seen their careers ended and their lives turned upside down by government prosecutions for their actions.

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Comments on “Snowden's 'Proper Channel' For Whistleblowing Being Booted From The NSA For Retaliating Against A Whistleblower”

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Anon E. Mous (profile) says:

All the hoopla about The Government wanting whistle blowers to come forward and how they will be protected is bullshit. It is all about self preservation than fixing what is wrong.

The Obama administration has gone after more whistle blowers than any other Administration in history, and this after the promises of more open and accountability in the U.S.government.

Everyone just wants to cover their ass and keep wrong doing under wraps and protect their own at all costs even if it means stifling the truth about the misdeed and law breaking the Government and it’s agencies and employees do

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re: Obama loves war

Like those bigoted sociological ideals did not exist until Obama created them … right.

No, he didn’t create them.

But in 8 years as the most powerful man on Earth, let alone just the US, he hasn’t done much, if anything, to reduce them. Some may even argue it’s worse now than when he became president. That’s not much of a legacy, especially as the first black man, a member of one of those races must subjected to bigotry, to become President, and to have done little if nothing to reverse that.

Frozen Njal (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Obama loves war

Considering the stunning level of bigotry and obstructionism he has faced (and I say this as a foreigner looking in) I’m surprised he got anything done in the dysfunctional system that is your government.

And all of that bigotry was in evidence long before Obama, and oftentimes really seems to be coming mainly from the Right, who seem hellbent on making sure that the poor, the non-white, the young, old and even their beloved veterans suffer for not being rich.

Peter says:

'retailiated against a whistleblower'?

If the US Government sees it appropriate to charge Dotcom with ‘conspiracy to commit copyright infringement’, they should come up with more serious charges against a public overseer who abused his role to protect the guilty and covered up serious, possibly criminal activities at one of the most sensitive agencies the US of A operates.

Daydream says:

If you have any concerns with our, shall we say, less-than-legal activities...

If anyone does not wish to work ‘outside the law’, so to speak, please step forward now.

Thank you. And could those of you who feel it appropriate to inform the police and public of our ‘wrong-doing’, please step through the door to the left…yes, the one that says ‘Danger: Toxic Gas’…

Eldakka (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole.

Then how the hell did he get a job at the NSA???

As an IT Administrator, you don’t need to know anything more than "this data over here is unclassified, so doesn’t need much security around it, and this data over here is of the "I could tell you but then I’d have to kill you" variety, therefore needs maximum security around it"

It’s like expecting the building maintenance who supply or re-arrange the desks to know the significance of specific intelligence documents.

markm says:

Re: Re: Re:

Building maintenance doesn’t need to know the significance of specific intelligence documents because you DON’T leave them in the desk. If it’s classified, it’s either in your hands or locked in the safe. Building maintenance may install the safe, but they don’t have the combination or keys.

The problem is, the IT world hasn’t developed technology that is really equivalent to that safe, that is, security so user-friendly that no special knowledge is required to secure documents even against those that installed the security. OTOH, you could consider hiring the likes of Snowden to be like having the janitor dial the safe combination for you, because you never bothered to learn how to do it. (Or forwarding your e-mail to your housekeeper to print out…)

Anonymous Coward says:

Now Obama is spouting off about the election being hacked

So a few weeks before the election, Obama vigourously defended against the idea that our elections could be hacked (see video below). Even states all the people who have looked in the past found no hacking. But now he is saying the election was hacked.

What nobody is talking about is there is no evidence of tampering with the vote count. Even the recounts show Trump picked up votes and any irregularities would have favored the Dems.

So what did the “hack” expose? It exposed emails showing that the Dems were trying to hack the election. They rigged their primaries against Bernie. They were in bed with the 4th estate (the media) and being handed debate questions and spreading FUD about Trump. So any “hack” just exposed the hack by a corrupt HRC, DNC and media.

You lefties need to get a clue and realize HRC lost because she was a horrible candidate from a corrupt party.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Now Obama is spouting off about the election being hacked

  1. Off topic.
    2. That’s not what he said. He’s not talking about voting machines being hacked. He’s talking about the hacks to get access to emails and other info from DNC, Podesta, others…
    3. Stop playing red team/blue team.

    Stop posting this kind of bullshit in our comments please.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Now Obama is spouting off about the election being hacked

1 – Yes it is off topic
2 – The term “hacked” is being used in a deceiving manor. Corruption and an attempt to rig the election by the DNC is what was exposed. Funny that people think Snowden was a hero for what he exposed but this hack was wrong. Would people prefer that Watergate was never exposed? I wouldn’t prefer it.
3 There are no other teams with any chance to win so red/blue is what we have for now.

I will lay off until it is back on topic.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Now Obama is spouting off about the election being hacked

I thought it was already covered earlier, but yeah since Obama and the hilarious stories from "leaks" run by things like WaPo, and the repetition by people and sources who have generally displayed better judgement before, uncritically believing something supposedly from the CIA with about zero evidence as though that outfit is mysteriously credible now. Noticed how they have pointed this out at The Intercept, though.

But honestly techdirt has been running so many other stories, i would think that further coverage is currently triaged.

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