Can Paranoids Warn Us of Real Enemies?


The officially "paranoid" former NSA official Russell Tice warns a congressional subcommittee that there are other, yet unrevealed, programs of NSA surveillance skulduggery, that he can't say any more about, roughly on the "if I told you I'd have to kill you" principle. From the UPI account:

Russell D. Tice….has concerns about a "special access" electronic surveillance program that he characterized as far more wide-ranging than the warrentless wiretapping recently exposed by the New York Times but he is forbidden from discussing the program with Congress.

Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws. He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees—members or their staff—because they lack high enough clearance.

Neither could he brief the inspector general of the NSA because that office is not cleared to hear the information, he said.
Tice was testifying because he was a National Security Agency intelligence officer who was stripped of his security clearance after he reported his suspicions that a former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency was a spy. The matter was dismissed by the DIA, but Tice pressed it later and was subsequently ordered to take a psychological examination, during which he was declared paranoid. He is now unemployed.

The Inspector General of the NSA is not authorized to know what the NSA is doing? America–what a country! In Soviet Russia, Inspector General watches agencies! Er, uh, wait….

Reason's Julian Sanchez chatted with Tice himself about this same set of issues back in January.

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  1. Neither could he brief the inspector general of the NSA because that office is not cleared to hear the information, he said.

    Scientists should try this sort of thing: Declare that the safety inspectors do not have permission to enter our labs!

  2. If the IG isn’t cleared for everything, then what, precisely, is the point of having one?

  3. So, is the tragedy version, or the farce version?

  4. Here’s a question: who can the NSA tell? Can they tell Homeland Security? The FBI? Stephen Hadley?

    I mean, what is the point, exactly, of having these ‘anti-terrorist’ surveillance programs if no one can know anything about what they are or what they find out? Or is this our equivalent of the Soviets in Dr. Strangelove not mentioning that they built the Doomsday device?

  5. “If the IG isn’t cleared for everything, then what, precisely, is the point of having one?”

    Probably the same point that having a privacy officer in the DHS who has no power to review the department’s actions has.

    I’ll also add that I’m sick of half-assed whistleblowers who say there’s a problem but won’t explain it because doing so will compromise “national security”. If you think the problem is so huge that it jeopardizes this entire country’s status as a free nation, then that is (a) a national security problem and (b) one that outweighs any plausible terror threat.

  6. Have we really reached the point when our best solution is security through obscurity?

  7. or is it obscurity through security?

  8. point -> kgsam

  9. Next time my boss asks me what I’m doing, I’ll tell him that information is not available at his security clearance.

  10. What I don’t get in all this is why NSA would not want a paranoid guy working for them. I mean, isn’t that the point of NSA?

    Anyway, I have a comment that would clear all of this up, but none of you is cleared to read it.

  11. [redacted]

  12. I worked on Apaches and one of our systems was classified as Secret. It was very rarely in use, and when it was we had to get special equipment from the security office to take it out of the safe.

    And, as anyone knows, all company level commanders have to pass a secret security clearance.

    The funny part is, the clearance only allows you to view the materials that not only don’t exceed your level, but also materials for which you have a need to know.

    When testing this portion of the system our company commander was not cleared.

    BTW – Our commader was a Major, not a Captain. With lots of Apache pilots in the unit who all ranked Captain, our commander needed a higher rank to run the unit.

    I don’t know if this means anything, and I’m sure with a phone call the commander could’ve gotten the “need to know” clearance, just saying that it’s not uncommon for idiotic rules to exist in overly large bureaucracy.

  13. Friends don’t let friends drink and blog…

    And, as anyone knows = and as anyone in the military knows

    materials that not only don’t = materials that not only doesn’t

    I’m sure at this point I’m missing a couple of others. And to think they trusted me???

  14. Reminiscent of an exchange in the Senate Watergate hearings — I remember it as John Mitchell and Sam Ervin, but would welcome correction.

    Mitchell explained that he hadn’t been aware of details in the summer of 1972 because he’d been “busy putting out fires” for the Committee to Re-Elect the President. Ervin: “Well… if the Committee had any worse fires than Watergate going [pause for effect] would you care to tell us about them..?”

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