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
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.