If NSA Workers Feel Unloved, Why Don't They Quit?


Crying spy

Despite a stirring defense of all things creepy made by General Keith Alexander to the beleaguered staff at the National Security Agency in June, the nation's spooks, spies and snoops are feeling unusually exposed and unappreciated these days. The fact the the more the public finds about about what they're doing, the angrier the public gets just brings them down. That's apparently led to a bit of a gloomy mood around the old NSA water cooler. Not that we're listening in. Though somebody probably is.

Reports Ken Dilanian for McClatchyDC:

Thanks to former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden's flood of leaks to the media, and the Obama administration's uneven response to them, morale at the spy agency responsible for intercepting communications of terrorists and foreign adversaries has plummeted, former officials say. Even sympathetic lawmakers are calling for new curbs on the NSA's powers.

"This is a secret intelligence agency that's now in the news every day," said Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and later led the CIA. "Each day, the workforce wakes up and reads the daily indictment."

This despite General Alexander giving a semi-public pep talk in which he hailed the "extraordinary people at NSA, the real heroes, working alongside our partners within the Intelligence Community." These days, the only people who seem to believe that are Alexander, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who live in their own private bubble of outrage that Americans just won't get with the program.

But Americans won't get with the program. Polls find dismay at NSA surveillance across the political spectrum, with vast majorities of Democrats and Republicans alike taking offense at being treated to a real-life rendition of Enemy of the State (a Hollywood project that made paranoid fantasy look too restrained).

This, no doubt, has much to do not just with the scope of revelations, but the masterful way in which Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and other journalists have dripped out reports about NSA surveillance, letting politicians and officials issue dismissals of the last round of stories and assurances of safeguards that are promptly proven to be bullshit by the next round. The White House has been described as a "piñata," bashed by each new round of stories about privacy invasions and forever playing catch-up. NSA staffers clearly feel the same way.

Continues Dilanian:

Arguably the most damaging disclosure so far came Wednesday when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence declassified and released three documents, including an 86-page ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created as one of the reforms of the 1970s. …

Those disclosures came days after an internal report leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA had logged more than 2,700 violations of privacy rules in a one-year period. The report said all were inadvertent mistakes caused by technical glitches and operator errors.

Obama administration officials downplayed the mistakes and said Bates' admonishment showed how well the oversight system works. But their explanations did little to quell growing public unease.

There is, it should be noted, a simple and easy way for NSA employees to escape this life of dread and regain a chance at a happy and appreciated life.



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  1. Sometimes dude, you just have to roll with the punches.


  2. Quit?

    And lose their power boner?

    Are you crazy, Tucksilly?

  3. There is, it should be noted, a simple and easy way for NSA employees to escape this life of dread and regain a chance at a happy and appreciated life.


    Or, more likely, “fondle your paycheck”.

  4. God damn it! Anonbot beat me to the punch! 🙁

  5. Awww, poor NSA employees, they has a sad. How about this, poor under appreciated mini tyrants, just put your head under a pillow right now, and stop breathing, it’s the only solution, for us all.

  6. NSA pays way above market. Way above.

    1. My dad is the only government employee I’ve ever heard say that they get paid too much money for their job, so you may be onto something.

      1. Well, they don’t want their employees tempted to give up info to foreign governments for money, right? Solution: overpay the shit out of them! That way they both spy on us and steal from us! And then they can get upset when we find out they’re doing both and don’t like it!

        I mean, think of the selfless job they’re doing, spying on every single one of their countrymen and getting a huge salary at the same time.

        1. The base salaries of public sector employees are not so bold or out of line. It’s the comp time, pension, and medical benefits that make the bulk of the difference. A fellow from a rival company showed me his spreadsheet on this. Averaged over a lifetime, a private sector employee will earn $90k/year while a public sector employee will earn (rake in) $175/year for doing about the same thing.

          1. “It’s the comp time, pension, and medical benefits that make the bulk of the difference.”

            One other I’ve never seen quantified but it’s worth a WHOLE LOT!
            How about you can’t get fired? How about you get to show up and mail it in every godamm day until you retire with full benes and no one can do a damn thing about it?
            What is that worth? I’m saying 10 years pay for your entire career and I’ll be happy to defend that guess.

      2. I’m another one, then.

  7. Well said.

  8. The West is, of course, as Russia and Iran are, already intervening in Syria…

    I’m not keeping up with which players are on Team West. Don’t get me wrong, I am on Team West, like most male woodies. Who’s checking the membership cards here?

  9. I would like to draw an analogy here: The US leadership (and by this, I mean administrations going back for generations, even a century or so) has decided to pursue foreign and domestic policies that, in the name of promoting “the US national interests,” have inspired enemies around the globe and made the world, and the land within our borders, much less secure than they might have been, had we simply followed Thomas Jefferson’s non-interventionist advice. To maintain our illusion of global leadership and control, however, the leadership has established agencies such as the CIA, NSA, and even the FBI. There comes a limit, at which topical band-aids such as these do not protect us from the pain and damage of blowback from our interventions. The situation is much like a hard-charging 1980s go-getter, who, in order to keep up with the 24/7 rat race, starts depending on both prescription and ilicit drugs. At some point, that “self-medication” is no longer effective. What does he do? Look for a better high or a purer grade of speed? Or face facts and adopt a healthier lifestyle, including a new occupation that is not so much of a meat-grinder as the old? The US seems to want to recreate itself as a fascist, totalitarian regime, in order to keep playing its same old geopolitical game, but might the real answer be to get back to the “healthier” lifestyle for the national body politic, which was specified in the constitution and recommended by the nation’s founders?

    1. “The US leadership (and by this, I mean administrations going back for generations, even a century or so)”

      I’ll draw another line.
      Post WWII, Taft still maintained the US defense interest was defending the US. Truman (and Marshall) thought otherwise. The fear was the Euro-idiots would adopt Communism if the US didn’t start paying their bills.
      Well, Taft lost that battle, and we’re still supporting Euro-socialism in that they don’t have to defend themselves! You and I do it for them!

      1. And Truman and Marshall supported intervention because they thought that communism was materially superior to capitalism.

      2. And they still don’t pay their bills.

  10. morale at the spy agency responsible for intercepting communications of terrorists and foreign adversaries has plummeted

    Sorry, but this is the same reaction guilty criminals have after being sentenced & just like then, their shame and morale issues are too little too late.

    Their responsibility was to defend the Constitution and instead, they supported secretly spying on all citizens regardless of cause. They only feel bad now because their secrete is out.

    Their reaction makes it clear they have yet to figure out there should be more Snowdens, not fewer. That would actually make the agency worthy of praise; yet instead all they have to offer is how the agency is crammed with great people.

    Pathetic – Not only should they not be able to find sympathetic ears, but they deserve more scorn and shame – as much as necessary to make them understand that their shame over getting caught is narcissistic and childish. Time to grow up and take responsibility.

    1. + 3 boos & a tiger

  11. I actually knew someone who worked for the NSA from an online service back in the days before the internet (not AOL, another one).

    I never actually knew he worked there until he got fired for punching a co-worker out. Apparently many of the people who work there are extremely arrogant, even by government worker standards. Finally he couldn’t; take it anymore and lost his temper and slugged someone.

    I guess to their credit, he didn’t get arrested. But he did get fired.

  12. I’ve known a number of people who have worked at the NSA. I wrote a nice long response detailing why I think this blog post was a nice shot at the people who deserve it, a cheap shot at people who don’t, and perhaps a bit short-sighted, if understandable, but the skwerlz ate it and I’m not typing it all back out. So I’ll just say the problem is probably 10-20% people working at NSA and 80-90% politicians, political appointees, their gross dereliction of duty in oversight, their utter contempt for the Constitution and American people, and the American people who keep returning these fucks to power year after year.

    1. Just following orders.

      Really, fuck those people. If they would all just quit, then the bullshit that they have a problem with would have no way to function. Same with cops. Fuck them too.

  13. If by some strange quirk of fate I had found myself working for the NSA – and I can only imagine doing it in an effort to try to steer things towards effective survellience of people we should be watching and away from people who do not need to be bothered – I would own up to my role and take responsibility for my involvement. I cannot imagine doing that job in a way that would make me feel uncomfortable should any details become public knowledge.

    Either do the job in a way you can own up to your actions – regardless of how they may look in the press – or quit the job.

  14. Kerry’s pronouncements on this subject are irritating. Hearing a politician speak of accountability and morality as though he has some passing familiarity with those subjects is nauseating.

  15. Nazdrakke knows what he is talking about here. The rest of you fucking conspiracy mongers seem to have the NSA confused with the IRS, who are capable of exerting far more negative influence in your lives than the NSA.
    Nevertheless, I agree with Tuccille – they should all quit! That will make promotions that much EASIER!!!! YAAAAAYYYYY!!!!
    Good idea, J.D…..

  16. I think that James O’Keefe needs to be honored for coming up with the death of a thousand drips of info approach.

    What Snowden and Greenwald are doing is just the same thing O’Keefe did with Acorn. Start with a risable story. Let the powers that be dismiss it as a one-off. Then show more evidence that contradicts the denial. Rinse and repeat.

    Maybe like the “Ken Burns Effect” that iPhoto and others use, we should call this dripping of info an O’Keefing?

  17. Snowden quit. Look what happened.

    It’s possible some of these people are afraid to quit. All that inflated paycheck gone and the knowledge that the NSA will be tracking their every move even more closely now that they’ve left the reservation.

  18. Perfect, we need to crank up the animosity, make them incapable of telling anyone what they do not out of fear for their job or keeping secrets but for fear of being spit on and harassed in public. if the government wont obey the laws we the people need to appeal to the other things that we can use to make life unbearable for these scum sucking traitors. If you know a DHS or NSA agent feel free to spit in their faces since they are doing that to every veteran, patriot, and law abiding american and let them know its because of their choice in employment…. its hard to run a spy agency when no spies want the job

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