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Tilting at Windmills

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January 5, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

MORE NSA PROBLEMS?....Russ Tice is a former employee of DIA and NSA who reported in 2001 that a coworker might be a Chinese spy. After Tice pressed his concerns, NSA declared him mentally unbalanced, reassigned him to clean cars in the motor pool, and eventually revoked his security clearance. He was fired last year.

Today the Washington Times reports that Tice has written letters to Congress claiming that he has knowledge of illegal activity carried out by NSA:

"I intend to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted while I was an intelligence officer with the National Security Agency and with the Defense Intelligence Agency," Mr. Tice stated in the Dec. 16 letters, copies of which were obtained by The Washington Times.

....The activities involved the NSA director, the NSA deputies chief of staff for air and space operations and the secretary of defense, he stated.

Tice is either a genuine whistleblower or else he's a genuine screwball. But the only way to find out is for Congress to investigate. Will they?

Kevin Drum 2:03 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (34)

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Hey Kevin, your articles on Peak Oil starting in May of last year convinced me to invest in some energy funds which did extremely well thank you.

I hope you took your own sage advice too.

Posted by: neodem on January 5, 2006 at 2:22 AM | PERMALINK

Tice was on Democracy Now a couple of days ago (I only caught a short bit of it). He sounded reasonably level headed, even wrote down his name to see if he was in the news. But even though he does sound like he knows his stuff, I came away with the impression that he is only doing this as a way to get back at his former employers (NSA), and the interview was a way to get his name thrown about and more likely he would be called to testify.

While he is calling himself a whistleblower, he wasn't exactly forthcoming with hints that he may know juciy details about the current scandals. This is the closest he came on this part:
-----
AMY GOODMAN: What made you decide to come forward? You worked for the top-secret agency of this government, one that is far larger and even more secret than the C.I.A.

RUSSELL TICE: Well, the main reason is, you know, I'm involved with some certain aspects of the intelligence community, which are very closely held, and I believe I have seen some things that are illegal. Ultimately it's Congress's responsibility to conduct oversight in these things. I don't see it happening. Another reason is there was a certain roadblock that was sort of lifted that allowed me to do this, and I can't explain, but I will to Congress if allowed to.
------

A full transcript of this segment can be found here: http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl?sid=06/01/03/1435201

Posted by: zAmboni on January 5, 2006 at 2:54 AM | PERMALINK

Or he is both a whistleblower and a genuine screwball.

Posted by: chris on January 5, 2006 at 3:07 AM | PERMALINK

"Will they?"
No.

Posted by: Dick Durata on January 5, 2006 at 3:18 AM | PERMALINK

The NSA is far larger than the CIA?!?!

Posted by: Boronx on January 5, 2006 at 3:22 AM | PERMALINK

Over at TPM, Josh Marshall notices that George Bush has made 17 recess appointments that he couldn't get through a tame Senate. One of these is of a Mr. Benjamin Albond Powell, of Florida, to be General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Now this would seem a very demanding job, calling for high qualifications and long experience. All Google can tell us about the guy is that he has passed the New York and California bar exams, in 1997 and 2001 respectively. So he is, as you would expect, a lawyer. Anybody know any more?

Posted by: James Wimberley on January 5, 2006 at 3:40 AM | PERMALINK


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Posted by: 飞机票 on January 5, 2006 at 4:55 AM | PERMALINK

The NSA is far larger than the CIA?!?!

Yep. That's a big reason they're the ones doing the warrantless wire tapping. They're pretty big themselves and have operational control over a lot of military resources.

Posted by: B on January 5, 2006 at 5:57 AM | PERMALINK

"But the only way to find out is for Congress to investigate. Will they?"

Yeah Kev., if they get to him before the NSA does.

Posted by: Lurker42 on January 5, 2006 at 8:01 AM | PERMALINK

Check this out:

In a clumsy effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear program, the CIA in 2004 intentionally handed Tehran some top-secret bomb designs laced with a hidden flaw that U.S. officials hoped would doom any weapon made from them, according to a new book about the U.S. intelligence agency. But the Iranians were tipped to the scheme by the Russian defector hired by the CIA to deliver the plans and may have gleaned scientific information useful for designing a bomb, writes New York Times reporter James Risen in "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration."

... According to the book, the CIA effort to sabotage Iran's nuclear effort came on the heels of another massive intelligence failure, in which a CIA officer mistakenly sent an Iranian agent a trove of information that could help identify nearly every one of the spy agency's undercover operatives in Iran. The Iranian was a double agent who turned over the data to Iranian authorities. They used it to dismantle the CIA's spy network inside the country and arrest or possibly kill an unknown number of U.S. agents, the book says.

-- LA Times

Posted by: JamesP on January 5, 2006 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

"mentally unbalanced"

Isn't that a KGB and Old Soviet Union tactic?

Conservatives become what they say they hate.

The US is well on its way to a Nazi-like or Soviet-like totalitarian state if Bush is allowed to continue down this path of absolute executive power.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 5, 2006 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

Good point by Advocate for God above. Reminds me of the old line, "just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

There was the stupidest movie ever, Sneakers, with Robert Redford (i think) about hackers and the NSA. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous to make so much fuss about this little government agency. It appears I misunderestimated them.

Posted by: theorajones on January 5, 2006 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Haven't they called everyone who's left the administration to criticize it unstable?

Didn't they do that to Paul O'Neil, Richard Clarke etc?

Posted by: Boronx on January 5, 2006 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

There was the stupidest movie ever, Sneakers, with Robert Redford (i think) about hackers and the NSA. I remember thinking that it was ridiculous to make so much fuss about this little government agency. It appears I misunderestimated them.

They've been on my radar for a good, long time (check out "The Puzzle Palace"). They are, bar none, THE biggest, most prolific, and secretive intelligence agency in existence. They are easy to ignore or forget about because they are not about James Bond type spies and fancy (illegal and unethical) schemes to overthrow legitimate foreign governments. They are a bunch of forgetable nerds with computers and other electronic wizbangs sitting in cubicles and fancy-pants offices listening into bazillions of communication electrons.

They can literally capture virtually every stray photon or electron of communication energy transmitted on the planet. They are something that deserves very close Congressional scrutiny/oversight to prevent them from pulling Nixonian evils with abandon. Oops, Bush entered office (with Cheney) and immediately, so it seems, had the NSA spying on political enemies (you know, freedom loving people that have the gall to believe what the Constitution says).

It wont help with gapping maw sniffers on the internet, but for every other kind of listening device, you can acquire relatively cheap detection devices for telephone bugs, wireless mics, minicameras, etc. Something to think about if you are actively involved in "dangerous" organizations such as the ACLU or local state chapter, any environmental group, any peace activist group, voting rights group, any party other than the GOP, etc. As for the sniffing of the internets...use openpgp and steganography apps for official communication. Drive 'em nuts with your encryption.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on January 5, 2006 at 10:50 AM | PERMALINK

Before you hang your collective hats on Mr. Tice, you might want to read this from the Austin American-Statesman web site. It's an article from this past Dec. 11th that details some of Mr. Tice's work history.

The article states that Mr. Tice claims that a co-worker was spying for the Chinese. That co-worker was investigated and cleared. Mr. Tice then was reviewed and underwent a psych evaluation, which suggested that he had 'paranoid delusions'. Previous psych evals, apparently, didn't notice this. This ended with his termination.

So one could wonder 1) if the investigation into the co-worker was done right 2) if the investigation into Mr. Tice was done right 3) is he a courageous whistleblower and/or 4) is he a disgruntled, kinda crazy ex-employee?

I sure don't know, but someone will have to do some digging.

The article goes on to talk about whistleblowers in general, and mentions the Rowley and Dzakovic cases.

Posted by: Steve White on January 5, 2006 at 10:52 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, 'paranoid delusions' like 'the govt has directed us NSA employees to start spying on Americans'?

Posted by: tinfoil on January 5, 2006 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Wimberly:

Powell is well qualified for his job. His appointment was held up by Levin not for lack of qualifications but rather because the WH has yet to release certain documents that Levin wants to see. This is conceded by Levin's office.

Posted by: Nathan on January 5, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

I'm glad to see this coming out, if he checks out then we potentially have another folk hero like Colleen Rowlett

Posted by: Jason Reed on January 5, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

So its Kevins position that Congress should hear testimony from all screwballs..

You mean like the screwball who said Saddam had WMD??

Heck, why not bring Farrakhan up to testify about the New Orleans levees being blown up, or have Bill Burkett testify about George Bushs being AWOL.

Whats next, Sandy Berger going to testify on proper handling of classified documents or
Joe Wilson on how to maintain your CIA cover by writing articles for the NYT!!

Posted by: Patton on January 5, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Paranoid delusions?

Like Iraq had WMD pointed at the US and could launch with 45 minutes notice?

Like Iraq had connections with Al Qaeda and was going to hand over nukes to them?

Posted by: Osama_Been_Forgotten on January 5, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

For anyone interested, I found an August 2005 Vanity Fair article that outlines what happened to Russ Tice, which is worth your time.

Posted by: Taylor Marsh on January 5, 2006 at 12:41 PM | PERMALINK

Patton: Whats next, Sandy Berger going to testify on proper handling of classified documents or Joe Wilson on how to maintain your CIA cover by writing articles for the NYT!!

Joe Wilson didn't have a CIA cover.

His wife did.

No wonder you voted for Bush.

You can't even follow the simplest news story so as to keep your facts straight.

BTW, that's how you get to the truth, by hearing testimony from all persons claiming knowledge of the relevant facts and determining their credibility.

Conservatives, on the other hand, want to prejudge credibility before hearing the testimony, meaning they only want to pick witnesses that will lie on their behalf, like Cheney, Rice, Feith, Rumsfeld, Powell, and Bush himself.


Posted by: Advocate for God on January 5, 2006 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Tice may or may not be mentally ill (that's for the psychiatrists to decide), but if he's Risen's source, he's going to be doing hard time in Leavenworth. Or maybe Risen will do hard time covering up his sources. We'll see.

Posted by: DBL on January 5, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

I think there's a third possibility, this guy is a red herring. If he really is a screwball there may be some encouragement to get him into the public eye, thereby casting public doubt on the general credibility of NSA whistleblowing. Something on the order of the Rather fiasco. What was said in the memos was essentially true, but because the memos themselves were discredited, the message had no impact.

Posted by: FeralLiberal on January 5, 2006 at 12:58 PM | PERMALINK

AFG: rips """Joe Wilson didn't have a CIA cover."""

YOUR ABSOLUTELY RIGHT...so why didn't he? He went on a foriegn trip to discover clandestine information. His wife was a super super secret agency operative who if she lost her cover would jeopardize the free world (all according to the left)...so why exactly wasn't Joes trip also super secret so no one would ever discover his wifes identity.

That is unless you ask there son, or any reporter working international affairs, or anyone who saw her drive to work each day, or anyone Joe told in the green room, etc.

Posted by: Patton on January 5, 2006 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

The FUNNIEST part of this story is if you read the NYT editors response to their own public editor, saying that if they discussed anything about their article on the NSA tapping Al Queda communication it may be possible for people to discover the sources and methods they used to
compile the report.

GEE, DOESN'T THE GOVERNMENT ALWAYS TELL US THEY CAN'T DISCUSS INTELLIGENCE BECAUSE IT MAY REVEAL SOURCES AND METHODS???

The NYT pooh poohs that idea whenever the government uses it and say it should be up to them to decide whether critical information would be learned by the enemy.

So NYT, let us, the reader, decide whether your sources and methods are valid...tell the truth!!

Posted by: Patton on January 5, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

"Tice is either a genuine whistleblower or else he's a genuine screwball. But the only way to find out is for Congress to investigate. Will they?"

Hmm, I'll take "Congress ignores screwball whistleblower," for a thousand, Bob.

Posted by: sheerahkahn on January 5, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Further note: Mr. Tice is also a member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition. Seems they had a conference a while back. The group includes Sibel Edmonds, Dan Ellsberg, etc.

My assessment of his reliability is going way-y-y-y down.

Posted by: Steve White on January 5, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't someone with the handle 'Tice' used to post here occasionally?

Posted by: cld on January 5, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Praedor Atrebates, "use openpgp and steganography apps for official communication."

That just won't work. I'm sure the NSA can read anything made with openpgp or steganography, and if they just don't have the energy and they're still curious, they can watch your computer while you un-encrypt them.

They can monitor and record every single data transmission, the entire internet, all the time. What websites did you visit October 15, 2002? They can get that for you.

Posted by: cld on January 5, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

cld:

Not if you decrypt your messages offline.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on January 5, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

rmck1,

They're able to monitor the alteration in ambient light in your room and determine what is displayed on the screen, they can monitor radio emissions put out by the hard drive and determine what info is being accessed, they can monitor alterations in the EM field of the hard drive and see what it's doing, they can monitor radio emissions from your processor and learn what's passing through it, they can follow the EM field of the entire motherboard and decipher it; and they can do all that without once accessing your premises.

And, of course, they can simply directly read anything going over the phone lines or through your cell phone or wandering about on your Xbox via an array of satellites with football field sized antennas, so even if you decrypt your message offline they've still got it, and I really doubt Pretty Good Privacy is good enough to foil them.

Don't be alarmed, it's not just you they're after. They can, and I'm sure they have, recorded every single data transmission from every bank in America, Switzerland, Germany and everywhere else.

And, they have said, they have allowed private companies to maintain parts of this database and analyze it.

Posted by: cld on January 5, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

Steve White: My assessment of his reliability is going way-y-y-y down.

Wow. What a shock.

Patton: He went on a foriegn trip to discover clandestine information.

The information was "clandestine", not Wilson.

You would be more productive simply giving Bush blowjobs. You don't carry his water well.

Posted by: Advocate for God on January 5, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nathan: I take your point about the DNI General Counsel nomination. From this letter by Negroponte the nominee Benjamin Powell does look qualified. Mind you, so was John Yoo. Is Senator Levin curious as to whether Mr. Powell believes the President to be subject to the law?

Posted by: James Wimberley on January 6, 2006 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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