​Popping a Cork For New NSA IG - Robert Storch

Put the champagne on ice and laissez les bon temps rouler! The NSA has a new IG or Inspector General! Are you relieved and joyful and grateful?


Lest Auld acquaintance be forgot, let us review then why the National Security Agency - the agency charged with signals intelligence: electronic surveillance or listening and reading everything that any human or bot writes or speaks or sings or shouts, anywhere online or on any media anywhere on Earth, and in Space - has a new Inspector General.

George Ellard was a criminal defense attorney who then became a Capitol Hill staffer who then became a counsel to the Congressional inquiry into the September 11 terrorist attacks. He was also chief of staff to a (presumably Congressional) commission that investigated rogue FBI agent Robert Hanssen, the toothy-grinned guy who spied for Russia for three decades in exchange for $1.4 million and fricking diamonds to boot. Hansen is serving 15 consecutive life sentences rather than the death penalty that many, perhaps Ellard himself, felt he deserved as a venal traitor to his country. George Ellard eventually became the NSA's Inspector General.

In other words, George Ellard's introduction into the world of intelligence was marked by a crucible of terrorism and treason. So how would you expect Ellard to handle a whistleblower within the agency he is charged with overseeing in his role as IG?

Ruthlessly? Brutally even?

Around 2013, perhaps in late 2012, an NSA employee contacted the Defense Department's IG regarding overspending at NSA. The employee's name was later shared with Ellard, the NSA IG. The whistleblowing employee then affirmed that Ellard denied him an assignment at the NSA's IG's Office of Investigations.

Evil? Not quite. But apparently it was a retaliation that went against Presidential Policy Directive-19 (PPD-19 for all you beltway insiders). What the hell is PPD-19? It's essentially an executive order protecting whistleblowers who have access to classified information, and was signed by President Obama in October of 2012. It says the following:

Any officer or employee of an executive branch agency who has authority to take, direct others to take, recommend, or approve any action affecting an employee's Eligibility for Access to Classified Information shall not, with respect to such authority, take or fail to take, or threaten to take or fail to take, any action affecting an employee's Eligibility for Access to Classified Information as reprisal for a Protected Disclosure.

Got it? In other words, if someone makes a legitimate leak, or Protected Disclosure (who or what process decides whether a leak is a Protected Disclosure?), then they have a right to continue to have access to classified information.

A panel of three IG's decided that Ellard, a fellow IG, should be suspended and then fired from his job as a result of the employee's complaint. This is to say that the intelligence community is as bureaucratic as any agency anywhere on the planet. Woe betide you if you can't manage those recondite, elaborate processes.

Now consider the strange case of the strangely named Reality Winner - who in what is likely a treasonous act rather than a case of whistleblowing, photocopied and mailed NSA classified information about Russian meddling in the elections to media site The Intercept while working for NSA contractor Pluribus International Corporation. In a compelling profile of the young (former) cryptolinguist, who's an expert in various Middle Eastern languages, in New York Magazine, they say the following:

Reality ... was one of the 1.4 million Americans with Top Secret clearance ... most of the intelligence budget now redounds (sic) to private contractors employing tens of thousands of middle-class Americans ... armies of security-cleared analysts are required to sift through all the data the state collects. If your definition of "deep state" cannot accommodate an idealistic 25-year-old Cross Fit fanatic with unmatched socks, you've underestimated both the reach and scope of American surveillance.

Ok. Now imagine you're the new Inspector General at the NSA. So, you're Robert Storch, former deputy IG at Justice and former federal prosecutor. And now newly confirmed IG at the NSA.

Deny a whistle-blowing employee an assignment at NSA and you're fired. Ignore a private subcontractor at one of your many contracted-out facilities and you may face a debilitating leak of vital information. Welcome to your new job Robert Storch!

We'll pop a few corks on New Year's to celebrate your appointment. Or maybe just to celebrate the coming year. Will you Robert?

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