The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Thursday unveiled its full 37-page report on its three-year investigation into Edward Snowden, drawing even more criticism for conclusions that have been called biased by supporters of the former NSA contractor. The report, released just days before a holiday weekend, is an extended version of a highly acerbic–and disputed–unclassified summary the committee published in September, describing the former NSA contractor as a “serial exaggerator and fabricator.” Snowden and other critics have vehemently denied the report’s conclusions. The House Committee authors allege Snowden’s concerns had more to do with petty workplace spats than moral uncertainty, citing interviews with his coworkers as well as his superiors—and suggest that he is not legally a whistleblower because he did not take advantage of internal channels available for formal complaints such as Congress and the Inspector General. Snowden quickly derided the report, which delves into his personal and professional life, often citing seemingly petty workplace grievances. He tweeted to his more than 2.5 million followers that the document is “rifled with obvious falsehoods”—citing reporting by Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Barton Gellman, who has also criticized the report. The extended report, according to U.S. News & World Report, actually addresses some factual concerns critics had about the summary published in September. The original report argued Snowden overstated his injuries and lied about his education, while the full investigation includes contrary evidence. Expanding on Snowden’s career in the CIA, NSA, and the private sector as a contractor to the intelligence community, the report accuses the former systems administrator of regularly meeting with Russian intelligence agents since his arrival in Moscow, where he is currently living in exile. He fled after sharing classified documents with journalists (including Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras) detailing to the NSA’s global surveillance regime. After attempting to make his way to Ecuador, he was stranded in Russia when the U.S. revoked his passport. Snowden has said he would return home if he could have a fair trial and the right to argue a public interest defense of his actions, something not permitted under the Espionage Act. Snowden directly challenged the assertion he is in any kind of contact with Russian intelligence agents—pointing to a mistranslation in the report from a Russian ambassador. According to Snowden, NPR cut the ambassador off before he could say he was merely speculating that Snowden had provided the Kremlin with intelligence. Plus, Snowden notes, he is regularly critical of Russian policy at the risk of his own safety and security. According to the House Committee, Snowden began stealing internal documents much earlier than he has admitted, shattering his timeline of an alleged breaking point in 2013 when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper distorted information about NSA surveillance during a Congressional hearing. The report also still includes extensive redactions, including 13 “high risk” national security consequences of Snowden’s actions. Much of the report’s explanation of how Snowden took the information also remains secret. Some members of Congress celebrated the report’s declassification. “The American people have every right to know the extent of the damage Edward Snowden did to our national security, and I applaud the declassification of the House Intelligence Committee’s report,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Ga., NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee Chair, wrote in a statement on Thursday. After challenging many points, Snowden turned to the committee’s attacks on his character: “Was I pain in the ass to work with? Perhaps; many technologists are. But this report establishes no worse.” The post Newly Declassified House Intel Report on Snowden Is “Rifled With Obvious Falsehoods” appeared first on The Intercept.
Senator Claire McCaskill asked federal agencies for information on managers who were said to have retaliated against employees who reported wrongdoing.
Financial wrongdoing dropped — and stayed down — at companies that were subject to investigations, a new study shows.
Intelligence chief James Clapper this week published a new training curriculum on whistleblower rights for all federal employees and contractors with access to classified information, even as critics point out that effective recourse for reporting problems remains limited. The four-part course fulfills a promise Clapper made in the fall of 2015 and is designed to train all government employees, from analysts in intelligence agencies to Postal Office workers, in reporting “illegality, waste, fraud, and abuse while protecting classified national security information,” according to a blog post shared on the intelligence community’s Tumblr page, IC On The Record. As the director of national intelligence, Clapper has been credited with increasing transparency by disseminating information including about whistleblower rights, yet those rights remain severely limited. “The guidance is not bad, but falls victim to the typical problem institutions have protecting whistleblowers: agencies like whistleblowers in theory, but when a specific instance of fraud, waste, mismanagement, abuse of power or dangerous behavior is challenged, the IC has proven time and again that it is unable and unwilling to police itself,” Jesselyn Radack, the national security and human rights director at whistleblower protection nonprofit ExposeFacts, wrote in an email to The Intercept. Radack’s clients include former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and former NSA official Thomas Drake. Snowden chose to release information about the NSA’s global surveillance regime to journalists out of concern that pursuing internal complaints would be ineffective. After his passport was revoked, he sought asylum in Russia where he remains today. Drake attempted to seek out official channels to alert the government to what he believed to be illegal mismanagement and waste within the NSA — inside the intelligence community and then in Congress. After contacting a journalist, he was indicted under the Espionage Act, and spent months battling the charges, which were ultimately dropped. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor, and his intelligence career was ended. “The problem is not training,” Drake wrote in an email to The Intercept. “Blowing the whistle too often threatens one’s ability to hold a clearance (a condition of continuing employment in the national security arena), raises trust issues, jeopardizes one’s job and pension, or far worse.” He described Clapper’s initiative as “lots of nice sounding boilerplate” language with little formal weight, leaving “it up to the individual agencies to implement.” For years, intelligence community whistleblowers have been hobbled by ineffective, weak protections. When they attempt to raise complaints, whether about the behavior of coworkers, fraud, or illegal conduct, they’ve faced years in court trying to get their security clearances back, or have their names cleared. “Nothing in the guidance changes that dynamic,” Raddack wrote. Pen America, a nonprofit devoted to free expression and protecting journalists, published a 40-page study in November 2015 on the overwhelming culture of secrecy in the national security sphere, which prevents protected disclosures. Intelligence community employees have few options for recourse when they are fired or retaliated against, and can only launch internal complaints under very specific conditions, like violations of federal law or gross waste of funds. Disclosures to the public are entirely unprotected, and the government has sought to prosecute leakers under the Espionage Act — preventing them from raising a public interest defense. Contractors — who form a large chunk of the intelligence community workforce — are the most vulnerable. What little protections they had were unceremoniously stripped away by Congress in 2013. These new whistleblower classes “probably won’t bring a real cultural change in and of themselves,” Bradley Moss, national security attorney with experience representing intelligence community whistleblowers, wrote to The Intercept. “How much will people really pay attention to them? Unclear. How much will senior management consider them when making decisions? Unclear.” “It will require real legislative change, with real, substantive right to judicial review, for the culture to truly change,” he continued. “And even then, it will take time.” Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, said he appreciated the decision to release the training guidance, but he agrees it will take more than classes to change the way the intelligence community treats its whistleblowers. “We need both stronger leadership and stronger laws to make sure the workforce that protects us is protected when they report wrongdoing,” he wrote in an email. In the meantime, the House this week passed a small amendment to bolster the FBI’s dismal whistleblower protections. Moss, the national security attorney, suggests the change is “small but welcome,” offering FBI employees more opportunity to approach administrative judges to seek redress against retaliation. “It does not appear to apply to contractors,” he wrote, “which is unfortunate, but sometimes Congress will only move in baby steps.” Top photo: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper testifies before Congress in February 2016. The post Intelligence Chief Publishes New Training Guide to Teach Whistleblower Rights appeared first on The Intercept.
The watchdog wing of Congress has quietly launched an investigation into the “integrity” of the Pentagon’s whistleblower protection program. The previously unreported investigation, started in late October, expands on an ongoing effort by the Department of Justice on this same issue. The Government Accountability Office, which serves as the investigative arm of Congress, has been looking into the extent to which Department of Defense whistleblower policies “meet executive branch policies and goals,” reassure employees of their rights to raise concerns “without fear of reprisal,” and require officials to report to Congress, among several other areas of concern. The GAO launched its new investigation on October 27, according to a memo reviewed by The Intercept. A spokesperson for the GAO confirmed the letter, though noted that the investigation was delayed, and there is no estimated release date yet. The nonprofit Government Accountability Project, which is devoted to protecting whistleblowers, provided The Intercept with documentation on the new investigation. According to the group, the investigation will also likely target senior Pentagon officials accused of destroying evidence that would have exculpated former senior NSA official Thomas Drake, who raised internal complaints about what he believed to be NSA misconduct and waste before ultimately approaching journalists. Rather than having his concerns acknowledged, Drake spent months fighting charges against him under the Espionage Act, ultimately pleading guilty to just a single misdemeanor. His career in the intelligence community was ended, however. “Bureaucratic abuses of power are the primary reason otherwise circumspect national security whistleblowers leak to the media. It is too dangerous to work within an untrustworthy system,” Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, wrote in a statement praising the intensified effort to uncover abuses against people, like Drake, who speak out about potential government abuses. The new effort also follows conclusions made last spring by a separate government watchdog group, the Office of Special Counsel, which is specifically tasked with providing protection to federal whistleblowers. The OSC said there was “substantial likelihood” senior Pentagon officials might have violated “laws, rules or regulations” in Drake’s case by destroying records of his cooperation with Congress and a Pentagon audit concerning his complaints. The Department of Justice originally said the destruction was “pursuant to a standard document destruction policy,” but that assertion has since been challenged by Drake’s lawyers and the OSC. “I’m glad to hear that GAO is looking into how a whistleblower’s protected whistleblowing disclosures were destroyed when they were potentially exculpatory evidence in an ongoing criminal case,” Jesselyn Raddack, Drake’s attorney, wrote in an email to The Intercept. “GAO should also investigate how a whistleblower, Drake, ended up being targeted and raided by the FBI in the New York Times leak investigation when he had no involvement in the leak. Hopefully GAO does an aggressive and thorough investigation and recommends meaningful consequences for the officials responsible.” John Crane, formerly the assistant inspector general in the Pentagon, revealed his role in attempting to protect Drake’s identity and investigate the document destruction involved in his case last May — an effort he claims cost him his job. Crane believes the DOJ and now GAO investigations are vital to repair a broken system of accountability and protection for those willing to identify wrongdoing at personal risk. “The pattern of events” launched by Drake’s persecution and what followed “are troubling to someone who as assistant inspector general at the DoD helped to craft the Whistleblower Protection Act to protect the disclosure of classified information provided by whistleblowers,” he told The Intercept. Crane says he became aware of the new GAO investigation recently. The agency does not publicly announce its investigations as a matter of policy. The implications of the investigation may eventually be important for evaluating the actions of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked a massive trove of documents revealing the agency’s worldwide surveillance regime, Crane argues. “The challenge for the incoming Trump administration is that these investigations are in effect examining whether current Pentagon IG leadership has become an existential threat to the national security of the United States by forcing whistleblowers like Snowden to view the media as their court of last resort and the seek safety overseas,” he wrote in a statement. Top photo: Former NSA official turned whistleblower Thomas Drake at a protest. The post Government Watchdog Conducting New Investigation Into Pentagon Whistleblower Retaliation appeared first on The Intercept.