NSA Will Try To Stop Turning Whistleblowers Into Leakers With Kinder, Gentler Official Channels
from the ALL-WHISTLES-MUST-BE-BLOWN-INSIDE-THE-HOUSE----The-management dept
The NSA is promising to be kinder to whistleblowers.
The U.S. National Security Agency’s top oversight official, Robert Storch, is working to repair the spy agency’s reputation with whistleblowers in an effort to encourage staff to report wrongdoing internally, rather than go public.
“It’s really important we encourage whistleblowers to come forward and that they feel comfortable doing so and if there are allegations of reprisal then we take that very seriously,” Storch said in an interview with Reuters last week.
This is important, at least to the NSA, because its most famous whistleblowers have eventually gone outside the system to deliver news of systemic surveillance program abuse to the masses. I don’t think NSA officials necessarily want to handle internal complaints and scale back abusive collection programs. I think they just want to make sure no one outside of the NSA and its direct oversight hear about it.
That being said, the NSA definitely needs to work on its interpersonal relationships with disgruntled employees. People yelling about Snowden not going through the proper channels didn’t have much to say about his proper channel being on the chopping block for retaliating against a whistleblower. And protections for contractors are still weaker than those offered to federal employees, which means the NSA can keep complainers quieter by continuing to rely on outsiders to handle the dirty work of analyzing incoming intel.
To be fair, this effort to protect whistleblowers seems a lot more earnest than past efforts. At least in this case, the NSA consulted with outside groups for input on anti-retaliation policies.
Storch said he has made progress by working with civil rights and privacy groups.
That effort included a February meeting with the non-profit Project on Government Oversight and other similar organizations.
Even so, whistleblower protections work better in theory than in practice. The NSA is the government’s most secretive agency and has a long history of abusing its surveillance authorities. It’s been resistant to internal change for much of its lifespan and change is something nearly every whistleblower is seeking. If it can keep whistleblowers from becoming leakers, it can better hide its misdeeds from the public. And that’s something we need to be wary of anytime the NSA starts talking about protecting employees who aren’t happy with its programs, policies, or practices.