Ellen Nakashima has a story that purports to show 1) significant morale problems at the NSA and 2) proof that the morale stems from Obama’s failure to more aggressively support the NSA in the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations.
The story relies in significant part on former NSA IG Joel Brenner and two other former officials who insisted on remaining anonymous because “they still have dealings” with the NSA.
“The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it’s been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,” said Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. “They feel they’ve been hung out to dry, and they’re right.”
A former U.S. official — who like several other former officials interviewed for this story requested anonymity because he still has dealings with the agency — said: “The president has multiple constituencies — I get it. But he must agree that the signals intelligence NSA is providing is one of the most important sources of intelligence today.
“So if that’s the case, why isn’t the president taking care of one of the most important elements of the national security apparatus?”
A second former official said NSA workers are polishing up their résumés and asking that they be cleared — removing any material linked to classified programs — so they can be sent out to potential employers. He noted that one employee who processes the résumés said, “I’ve never seen so many résumés that people want to have cleared in my life.”
Morale is “bad overall,” a third former official said. “The news — the Snowden disclosures — it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”
Does “still have dealings with the agency” mean these people still contract to it, indirectly or directly? If it does, how much of this contracting works through The Chertoff Group, where a slew of former officials seem to have had remarkably consistent interests in spreading this line for months? Nakashima might want to provide more details about this in any future of these stories, as it may tell us far more about how much these men are profiting for espousing such views.
After all, while they do provide evidence that NSA employees are leaving, they provide only second-hand evidence — evidence that is probably impossible for any of these figures to gain in depth personally — that the issue pertains to Obama’s response.
And there are at least hints that NSA employees might be leaving for another reason: they don’t want to be a part of programs they’re only now — thanks to compartmentalization — learning about
We can look to the two letters the NSA has sent to “families” of workers for such hints.
The first, sent in September (page one, page two, h/t Kevin Gosztola), got sent just 3 days after the release of documents showing NSA had been violating just about every rule imposed on the phone dragnet for the first three years it operated (partly, it should be said, because of Joel Brenner’s inadequate oversight at its inception). In the guise of providing more context to NSA employee family members about that and recent disclosures, Keith Alexander and John Inglis wrote,
We want to put the information you are reading and hearing about in the press into context and reassure you that this Agency and its workforce are deserving and appreciative of your support. Continue reading