Since being fired from the National Security Agency a year ago, former intelligence officer Russell Tice has spent his time asking Congress for a hearing on what he says are “probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts” he observed being conducted by the NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency. On Wednesday, he will finally get his hearing.
Tice first approached the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in December, shortly after the New York Times revealed the existence of what President George W. Bush now calls the terrorist surveillance program, a classified NSA program which collects international calls to and from the United States believed to be associated with terrorists.
NSA responded by throwing bureaucracy in Tice’s way, saying that he must clear whatever he intends to tell Congress with NSA or the Department of Defense first.
Tice, who testified in February at a Congressional hearing on retaliation against national security whistleblowers, eventually found out that no one on the intelligence committees has the necessary clearance to learn about the special access programs conducted by NSA, but that some of the members of the armed services committees do. So he redirected his request (PDF) to those committees.
“I am set to testify in closed session to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the SAP programs I was involved with at NSA and DoD on Wednesday,” Tice wrote in an e-mail to Cybercast News Service reporter Sherrie Gossett. Tice will meet Senate staffers in the Russell Senate Office Building Wednesday afternoon, from where he will be escorted to a secure facility where he can speak about the programs. “I apparently will not know where this location is until I am escorted to it on Wednesday,” he wrote.
Tice hasn’t said publicly exactly what the illegal programs are. But he has said that they are different than the terrorist surveillance program revealed in December, and different than the NSA’s telephone call detail record collection revealed last week.
“It’s an angle you haven’t heard about yet,” he said.
And he has said that Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, then director of NSA, and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had full knowledge of the possibly illegal programs and approved them after being warned that they may be illegal.
While working at DIA, Tice says he observed a co-worker exhibiting signs of potential espionage. He reported the co-worker, but was told to ignore it. He eventually transferred to the NSA, where he served as an all-source analyst cleared for special access programs, some of the most tightly restricted secrets in the government. NSA did a mental on him, he said, meaning they had a psychologist declare him paranoid, regardless of his actual psychological state, which led to him losing his security clearance and then his job.