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.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 6:41am

    Free bridge with every report through official channels!

    'We not only promise we pinky promise that this time the 'official channels' will absolutely not be a trap.'

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

    • icon
      Coyne Tibbets (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 8:08pm

      Re: Free bridge with every report through official channels!

      "It's a trap!" shouted Admiral Obvious.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 27 Oct 2018 @ 1:13am

        Re: Re: Free bridge with every report through official channels!

        Wonder if they could sign a deal with Disney to license Admiral Ackbar as the mascot for the new program?

        'Admiral A says: If you see a problem, remember: Proper channels for reporting are there for a reason, make sure to use them.'

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    C Krits, 26 Oct 2018 @ 6:53am

    But can you think of single CIA whistle-blower?

    The NSA is the government's most secretive agency

    Let's see your data and metrics.

    Actually, you're just trotting out the Snowden theme again. It's still not clear that Snowden wasn't a limited hang-out, meaning planned and authorized psy-op.

    A) Snowden informed me of nothing. -- Okay, strictly speaking, I'd no PROOF, but had guesses which were verified. By same token, Snowden hasn't delivered any PROOF if mean put anyone in jail. The surveillance state went on, except that now the dolts know how much: so was just a way of gaining public acceptance.

    B) The alleged Snowden trove has not been made public. Green Glenwald claims tens of thousands documents and has released some tiny fraction. Glenwald says he's careful to not ID agents, which means runs them past some NSA check, which means he's under its control. -- OR lying about the number of docs. -- Either way, why not dump them and let public decide? How and why did Glenwald become our gatekeeper on the whistleblowing?

    C) That limited hang-out is at least handy for CIA to avoid attention. Theory is that Snowden was / is a CIA agent to attack the NSA and benefit CIA. -- HOPE no one will claim CIA has no conspiracies.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 8:16am

      Re: But can you think of single CIA whistle-blower?

      lol

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 8:28am

      Re: But can you think of single CIA whistle-blower?

      I'd no PROOF

      Well, congratulations on finally becoming self-aware, I guess.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Hero, 26 Oct 2018 @ 10:15am

      Re: But can you think of single CIA whistle-blower?

      > The NSA is the government's most secretive agency

      I'd say the DIA is more secretive.

      And who knows, there may be agencies so secret we don't even know about their existence.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:22am

    Dear Whistleblowers

    WE PROMISE we will "play nice" when you try to rat us out.

    See, here is the proof, we brought lube this time!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:48am

    Y listen 2 NSA officials ?

    " 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... "


    So, why give any credence (or even highlight) the public words of this NSA official Robert Storch ?
    Organizations and people with no credibility -- have no credibility. Duh

    If the NSA complied with the 4th Amendment there would be no impetus for whistle-blowers, nor intricate NSA administrative procedures for handling whistle-blowers.

    We citizens want the top NSA management to emphatically and publicly state... that the NSA will no longer conduct illegal/unconstitutional surveillance. All Congressmen and the President should state the same.

    Of course, that will not happen.

    What should be done with a very powerful, rogue Federal agency that is firmly supported by all 3 branches of the Federal government ??

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

    • icon
      Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:59am

      Re: Y listen 2 NSA officials ?

      "If the NSA complied with the 4th Amendment there would be no impetus for whistle-blowers, nor intricate NSA administrative procedures for handling whistle-blowers."

      What, you don't think a massive government agency can screw up in many ways?

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 9:45am

      Re: Y listen 2 NSA officials ?

      >We citizens want the top NSA management to emphatically and publicly state... that the NSA will no longer conduct illegal/unconstitutional surveillance. All Congressmen and the President should state the same.

      And we'd believe that why? Given the track record of these alphabet organizations, the shit they've done over the decades, lying to the public's face is somehow beneath them?

      I doubt there's anything that would regain the trust of thinking people at this point.

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

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:51am

    Internal is the problem

    I wouldn't feel safe whistle-blowing to an internal source within the NSA. I can't imagine anyone else would either. There needs to be an external channel with the power to protect whistle-blowers from reprisals.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 8:18am

      'After due investigation we have found that we're innocent.'

      Power and interest in doing so. The ability to protect a whistleblower does said person absolutely no good if the person/agency with the ability has no interest in standing up to the NSA to in order to do so.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 9:30am

      Re: Internal is the problem

      How would you do that?
      At the very least, corporate or government, whistleblowing means your job is at risk. An outside entity couldn't protect that no matter how (realistically) powerful it was.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 9:43am

      Re: Internal is the problem

      That'll never happen because the entire system is corrupt, not just the alphabet agencies.

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

    • identicon
      KL, 28 Oct 2018 @ 12:52pm

      Re: Internal is the problem

      The problem is that five minutes after it's made, it will be rapidly staffed by "ex"-NSA employees that definitely weren't put there by the NSA and without a doubt aren't reporting everything you say to them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 7:53am

    To quote Admiral Akbar

    It's a trap!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 26 Oct 2018 @ 10:12am

    Whaaa?

    > 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.

    I don't understand this conclusion. I would think that if outsiders (contractors) aren't protected by these new kinder, gentler whistleblower policies, they'd be more likely to go public. For example, Ed Snowden.

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

  • icon
    ShadowNinja (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 10:48am

    Years too late to work

    It's way too late for any changes now to be believable, this is no better than a pinky swear. And it's not like the NSA has a good reputation to begin with to add to their credibility.

    If the NSA really wanted to be taken seriously here they need to do something big to show a real change in policy. As in say actually take the abuses and bill of rights violations exposed by previous whistle-blowers like Snowden seriously instead of trying to shoot the messenger and keep doing those things behind closed doors.

    People like Snowden wouldn't have gone public if they thought that the proper channels would have actually gotten something done about said abuses and bill of rights violations.

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

  • identicon
    Chuck, 26 Oct 2018 @ 11:19am

    Abolish all the *SA's

    The NSA shouldn't exist. Unlike every other department or agency in the government that is empowered to spy on people, be they US citizens or not, the NSA answers directly to the office of the president. This creates an innate problem where our single "totes-not-a-king leader" has spy powers that are only secondarily subject to congressional oversight, which while seemingly quite weak these days, is still better than nothing. The president should NEVER have a spy agency that answers to him (or her) first. They should ALWAYS answer to congress first, and only take direction from POTUS when it does not contradict the directives from congress.

    Much like the TSA, the NSA was a bad idea in theory that is only worse in practice. Abolish them both!

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

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 12:49pm

      Re: Abolish all the *SA's

      The entire executive branch reports directly or indirectly to the President.

      They should ALWAYS answer to congress first

      You're talking about a fundamental restructuring of the federal government as laid out in the Constitution. Maybe it's a great idea, but to say it would be a difficult undertaking would be a laughable understatement.

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

      • identicon
        Chuck, 27 Oct 2018 @ 8:30pm

        Re: Re: Abolish all the *SA's

        Actually, no, but this is probably an issue with how I originally phrased what I said.

        The CIA, FBI, and DIA all take orders from POTUS, just like the NSA does. The difference is that congressional oversight overrides presidential orders for all of these departments except the NSA. That is, if congress tells the CIA "no you can't torture POWs" and POTUS says "yes you can" and the CIA goes ahead and does it, someone in the CIA will be going to prison. By contrast, if congress says "you must get a warrant before you evesdrop on people" and POTUS says "nah" and the NSA does so without a warrant, nobody goes to jail.

        I'll be 100% honest that, despite being a paralegal, I don't remember the legal precedent that sets this legal construct up, or else I'd cite something. But I do know it exists.

        In short, the CIA, FBI, and DIA are ultimately accountable to Congress. The NSA is only accountable to the President, and that's a bad idea, always.

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

        • icon
          That One Guy (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 12:30am

          If only

          That is, if congress tells the CIA "no you can't torture POWs" and POTUS says "yes you can" and the CIA goes ahead and does it, someone in the CIA will be going to prison.

          Oh how I wish that were even remotely believable and realistic...

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 26 Oct 2018 @ 12:21pm

    To many secrets..

    There are secret Non-compete contracts, between many companies.
    Then you wonder WHY Capitalism, ISNT what it should be..

    There are Hidden monopolies.. That you May be able to see, but dont Quite, see all of it.. As over 80% of USA groceries are owned by 1-2 corps..

    There are Economic ideals, that are in paperwork so old, you may never see them.. "A nation that has a 3% economic increase per year is a Good thing", has pressured Companies to PUSH THINGS to keep this ideal..but left the lower income BELOW that 3%.. Which has Spread this nation apart economically..

    The ideal that WARS make jobs, is so F' ing stupid..That when the war ends we find that the JOBS that were THERE, are gone.. But where were the jobs BEFORE the war??
    This nation has had an Employment problem for ALONG TIME...and it was part of the Civil war..That the South was using Slaves insted of giving Jobs to all the WHITE MEN up north..
    and PARt of the ideal of HOW to SLICE a farm up with so many kids..YOU DONT..you kick out the other kids. AND AUTOMATED FARMING made this even worse..more kids sent to the CITIES.. And how many JOBS in the cities? then Automation took MANY of those jobs..

    Stats like ?% of unemployed is Stupid..its not based on anything, except those Registered with the Employment office. and that is NOT that long of benefits.
    That ?% is not based on the WHOLE working ABLE people in the USA.. If you want a number for it..Use 1/4 of the USA population.
    Which is strange when BOTH adults are working, to make ends meet. and if you raise min wage, so that 1 person could feed his family) there would BE MORE JOBS..(because then only 1 of those people would NEED A JOB)..

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Oct 2018 @ 1:00pm

    Kinder. gentler.. lmao that coined phrase coming from someone who hated JFK so much, he can't remember where he was (according to his biographical's account) when that president was shot.. but he recalls his wife having lunch an hour and a half away eating lunch with an Italian assassin's wife.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Oct 2018 @ 3:47am

    There's a trail

    Binney, Loomis, Wiebe, Drake, Snowden.

    Its not a trap, its a policy.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 29 Oct 2018 @ 9:10am

      Re: There's a trail

      It's both.

      A trap in the sense that they dress the 'proper channels' up as an effective way to resolve a problem that a worker may find, when all it really does it put a huge freakin' target on their heads, and a policy in that 'shoot the messenger, bury the problem' is the inevitable response to anyone naive enough to fall for the trap.

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


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