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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  • icon
    Anon E. Mous (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 11:52am

    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

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 11:55am

    As far as I have seen, Snowden _did_ try taking taking concerns though channels, and they _were_ more than disregarded. He simply chose another route before reaching the more extensive retaliation stage.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Anon E. Mous (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:00pm

      Re:

      No doubt and now they want to nail him to the cross for it

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:43pm

      Re:

      If you are working in a very hierarchical structure you also should know better than taking your concerns to others than your superior. As soon as he/she catches wind, retaliation will come back ten-fold!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:18pm

    Obama loves war

    Hate started a class war, race war, gender war an d war on the elderly. Now he wants a cyber war with Russia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2016 @ 6:41am

      Re: Obama loves war

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

      It is difficult to have a conversation with people who reject reality in favor of some distortion field bizarro world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Eldakka (profile), 17 Dec 2016 @ 9:37pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Frozen Njal (profile), 20 Dec 2016 @ 5:50am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 20 Dec 2016 @ 5:52am

          Re: Re: Re: Obama loves war

          Obama is a neocon. That's why the only real changes we saw are socially cosmetic.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Jeremy Lyman (profile), 19 Dec 2016 @ 5:24am

      Re: Obama loves war

      None of those things are actual wars.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Peter (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:28pm

    '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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:35pm

    You just put your lips together and blow

    --Lauren Bacall explaining how to properly blow whistles

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 12:49pm

    it's people who have no experience whatever with this sort of thing -- and especially the world of contracting -- who believe fatuous creeps like el lard.

    as always, the less people know, the more firm their beliefs.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 16 Dec 2016 @ 1:18pm

    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'...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PlagueSD (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 1:25pm

    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???

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 2:36pm

      Re:

      My thoughts exactly.
      That statement is more an indictment of the people who hired him and gave him the access, than Snowden himself.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 2:58pm

      Re:

      Yeah, it's always funny seeing the attempts to smear Snowden as somehow clueless or stupid, because then the follow-up question is simply, 'Then why did you hire him and given him such an important job if, according to you, he was so incompetent and/or dishonest?'

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Eldakka (profile), 17 Dec 2016 @ 9:45pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Eldakka (profile), 17 Dec 2016 @ 9:50pm

        Re: Re:

        And something else to add (damn no 10-minute edit window a'la The Register):

        Snowden did not get a job at the NSA.

        He was a contractor providing specific services (IT) to the NSA.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        markm, 19 Dec 2016 @ 8:07am

        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...)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 1:40pm

    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.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPpt7-QOGKc

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 3:28pm

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 16 Dec 2016 @ 3:44pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Kal Zekdor (profile), 16 Dec 2016 @ 6:55pm

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

          Stop playing red team/blue team.

          There are no other teams with any chance to win so red/blue is what we have for now.

          Well, that went over your head.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Padpaw (profile), 17 Dec 2016 @ 4:46am

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

        I am curious why techdirt is staying mum about this though. Not even an opinion piece to tie it in with the fake news narrative?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          orbitalinsertion (profile), 17 Dec 2016 @ 11:17am

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Dec 2016 @ 10:48am

    point missed in the main article

    At the time Snowden did his thing, the whistleblowing laws only protected government employees, not employees of contractors.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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