Entirely Coincidentally, NSA Signals Intelligence Director Moved To New Position After Conflicts Of Interest Were Exposed By Buzzfeed

from the that-thing-we-were-doing-anyway-but-just-not-until-right-now dept

The NSA's newly-developed concern for "optics" is being tested by employees both former and current. Keith Alexander, the NSA's longtime leading man, took his snooping show on the road, offering his expertise to banks for $1 million/month. But he couldn't leave it all behind, attempting to drag the current NSA CTO along with him by offering him an interesting -- but conflicting -- part-time position with IronNet Security. The NSA said, "That's fine." Then it said, "We're looking into it." Then it said nothing while Keith Alexander pulled the plug on the deal while simultaneously denying any sort of impropriety.

The story of Teresa Shea, SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) director for the NSA is even more convoluted and shady. Buzzfeed's Aram Roston has been digging into Shea and her husband's private ventures -- the latter of which at least appear to be direct beneficiaries of Teresa Shea's position.

The NSA has refused to comment on Shea's position and her husband's various SIGINT-related businesses, other than to point out how serious the agency is about ethics and possible conflicts of interest. So serious, in fact, that it refuses to discuss the issue beyond issuing boilerplate.

Now, Buzzfeed reports that Teresa Shea is no longer head of SIGINT, a decision surely entirely unrelated to Roston's investigatory efforts.
One of the nation’s top spies is leaving her position at the National Security Agency (NSA), a spokesman confirmed Friday, amid growing disclosures of possible conflicts of interest at the secretive agency…

The NSA provided a statement Friday that said Teresa Shea’s “transition” from the SIGINT director job was routine and “planned well before recent news articles.” The agency indicated she would remain employed, but did not provide specifics.
While this could mean that an ongoing internal ethics probe reached the same conclusions Roston's work did, it seems altogether too coincidental to have been "planned well before recent news articles." Then again, no one expects a federal spy agency to announce that "due to recent acts of journalism, Teresa Shea has been busted down to Entry Level Bulk Data Processor, pending further disciplinary action." But the agency doth seemingly protest too much, especially when its standard MO has been to brusquely shove aside every accusation with practiced ease.
In a statement Friday, NSA spokesman Michael Halbig said that “NSA considers regular rotations of senior leaders as a catalyst for achieving diverse, fresh perspectives on the nation’s critical national security challenges.” He added that “We value her leadership as a senior leader and look forward to her continued contribution to the mission to help defend the nation.”
Give it up, various NSA mouthpieces. This was a clean bust. I'm sure Shea was hoping to continue her run as head of SIGINT, something she probably finds more "invigorating" than whatever position she's been hastily shoved into while the agency waits for the ethically-troubling furor to die down.

This is a positive step, both for the agency and for the general public, which has been unofficially tasked with watching the watchers (including the watchers' watchers in the halls of Congress) over the past several years. Playing to the edges of ethical confines is no longer acceptable behavior. If the agency expects to be entrusted with the data and communications of the world, it needs to be above reproach on every observable level. This much has always been obvious to the agency's critics. That it's now readily apparent to the agency itself is a welcome change.
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Filed Under: conflicts of interest, james shea, nsa, sigint, teresa shea

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  1. icon
    andrew_duane (profile), 29 Oct 2014 @ 5:44am

    "If the agency expects to be entrusted with the data and communications of the world, it needs to be above reproach on every observable level."

    Of course, there are two ways to accomplish this:

    1) Actually be above reproach
    2) Limit the number of observable levels

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