There is no excuse for unauthorized disclosures of classified information, it is argued, because whistleblowers who have legitimate complaints about classified government misconduct can use official channels to convey those concerns on a classified basis.
But as a practical matter, those channels are often blocked or ineffectual.
That is what former National Security Agency employee Russell D. Tice discovered when he attempted to initiate contact with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees to report what he believed to be “probable illegal conduct” by the NSA.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) did not respond to Mr. Tice’s approach at all.
House Intelligence Committee staffers met with Mr. Tice but concluded that neither they nor any member of the Committee had the requisite security clearances to receive his complaint.
See several letters to Congress (pdf) sent by Mr. Tice last week, summarizing his conundrum.
In an astonishing letter (pdf) sent last January, the NSA itself advised Mr. Tice that the congressional intelligence committees were not cleared to receive his information, which involve Department of Defense Special Access Programs, and that he should not convey any classified information to them without prior coordination.
While affirming “unequivocally” that Mr. Tice has “every right to petition Congress” as “guaranteed to you by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the NSA proceeded to warn Mr. Tice not to contact the committees without first providing a statement of his complaint to the Department of Defense Inspector General or the NSA Inspector General.
Thereafter, the NSA said, he should follow the instruction of the Secretary of Defense “on how to contact the intelligence committees in accordance with appropriate security practices.”