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Snowden Tried to Tell NSA About Surveillance Concerns, Documents Reveal (vice.com)
342 points by aburan28 on June 4, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

It is abundantly obvious that the NSA has no interest whatsoever in following the law or offering an avenue for whistleblowers to point out wrongdoing. This well-written and detailed article is just more confirmation. It seems clear that any internal compliance channels purportedly offered as a way to raise concerns about violations of law are worse then just windowdressing - they are more like a honeypot used to sniff out employees who have any regard for law or ethics.

>During the course of the interview, standard interview questions were used, but were tailored as needed to follow the flow of the interview. It is also important to note that there were questions included that were meant to uncover whether Mr. Snowden was dissatisfied with the US government.

The "standard interview questions" asked when an employee raises a legal concern about the practices of the NSA are used to turn the microscope onto the employee, rather then the legal issue (a practice certainly not lost on employees considering raising an issue). The message here is clear - keep your head down and do what your told, or you will be hammered down like a nail that sticks out from a board. The willingness of the NSA to continue its constant and continuing barrage of lies is troubling and revealing, laying bare the immoral, illegal, and sociopathic tendencies of those employed there.

I remember when the scandal first broke I asked a friend whether he thought Snowden had truly tried to follow proper whistleblowing channels before going rogue. To which my friend replied, ''Do you really think the NSA would have shut down a multi billion dollar project because a young kid in Hawaii raised some Constitutional objections?'' I know a lot of good people working at three letter agencies but I do think they take on a life, mission, and momentum of their own sometimes.

The article cites Snowden as saying that as a contractor he was not subject to the protections of the whistleblower law.

Perhaps I should write "protections" since we also know that whistleblowers are punished rather than protected.


But I would expect Snowden was also smart enough not to raise extremely strong sounding objections since he probably couldn't have done what he wound-up doing if he had.

After all, Snowden basically saw a couple other NSA dissidents who went entirely through the chain of command get eaten up and chewed out. This is the context of these events.

Same thing applies to corporate HR. They are not your friends; they are not there for your protection. Their job is to cover the company's ass.

We'll probably see similar whistleblower-ignoring effects (if not outright disinformation & discrediting) in the corporate world too. The VW emissions scandal comes to mind...

It just so happens that protecting you might fall under covering their ass. If it doesn't, watch out.

>following the law

There is a strong intuition that what the NSA is illegal, but I've not seen that borne out by reality. Time and time again, bills have passed with wide bipartisan support to expand and extend surveillance powers, and the Supreme Court is clear that the Constitution does not protect 3rd party records.

If the NSA has actually done anything illegal, I imagine it was only in the brief period between when it thought to do so and when Congress gave its approval.

I don't agree with the ACLU on everything, but they make a pretty solid argument by my lay-eye that the NSA's conduct was explicitly illegal.[1]

>Unfortunately, although the law in this matter is crystal clear, many Americans, faced with President Bush's bold assertions of "inherent" authority for these actions, will not know what to believe.


People who do illegal things just call themselves patriots and it makes them feel all better.

It seems to be a problem across many agencies, this disrespect for the law. The FBI was recently busted again for submitting illegal requests that were ruled such back in 2008.

I'd go a step further and propose it's systemic problem that will occur with any closed powerful agency with a mission (NSA, Anonymous, North Korea): if you have a hammer everything looks like a nail.

Once you've decided you're The GoodGuy™, anybody who stops you becomes The Enemy™. It's just a matter of time until you're wrong and those trying to stop your error become The Enemy™.

There is a simpler and more universal explanation for corporate behaviour, and that is that it wants to continue continuing. Once it exists it will justify its existence as priority one. Of course this becomes problematic for big government institutions with "inherent" power. The only power the people have over these institutions is funding, and the case of the CIA, they have taken care of that existential threat as well.

So, having read through that extremely long and largely uninformative article, I'm left with the impression that there's no real story of any substance here. The NSA spent a lot of time and resources trying to find any evidence to support Snowden's claims that he raised concerns about the legality of NSA programs but they couldn't find any, apart from a single email whining about a difficult question in a test he failed which even the most generous of interpretations would struggle to describe as "raising concerns".

In other words, the headline is a lie.

Ten minutes of my life I'll never get back.

Exactly. I'm guessing most didn't fully read the article. What I got out of it was that the NSA was really concerned about being sure they were correct that Snowden didn't in fact officially raise any concerns and that all they could find that was even close to this was a single email about a trick question on a test.

One could argue the NSA could be trying to make sure there was no proof rather and that's fine. This article though only finds evidence of a single email. I'd love to see more but this isn't it.

I quit mid-article when it was obvious there wasn't a big story here and I asked myself how much I care whether he exhausted his internal options before going public. (Turns out I don't.)

> The NSA spent a lot of time and resources trying to find any evidence to support Snowden's claims

== "NSA has investigated NSA and has found no wrongdoing."

Your mind was already made up, not sure why you bothered reading it.

I came to the same conclusion after reading it, and the entire time I read the article I was hoping for more evidence of the title. I still agree with his actions (especially in light of how previous whistleblowers were treated), but I don't feel like this article delivered what was promised. I'm actually disappointed by that.

No, this is showing more: all the splashing and churn of a bunch of mid level people really looking.

Similar to other replies: my mind was already made up the other direction, and the article's very thin findings are making me question that.

"An NSA official offered up several options for dealing with NBC News, only one of which was left unredacted..."

I understand not wanting to make public internal conversations, but this sort of redaction really sets the imagination down a dark path. Not Gary Webb dark, but HBGary-fabricating-evidence-to-discredit-journalists kind of dark [0].

[0] http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/us/politics/12hackers.html...

Certainly makes you wonder if Brian Williams being outed had something to do with his interview with Snowden

Can you please explain how the military revealing the Brian Williams scandal would have anything to do with Snowden?

I got a bit confused about halfway through this long article. Could someone please provide a summary or a link to one?

- What instances of Snowden voicing his concerns internally do we now know of? - Which of these are "old news" and which are "fresh news"? - How did the NSA respond to each of these cases that we know of?

Yeah, I don't see the evidence, unfortunately. Weird article. The lede - NSA released a bunch of documents yesterday - is buried in the final paragraph.

Think there's strong evidence their whistleblower protections are lacking. Think it's clear the NSA is trying desperately to damage control the situation. While it's possible Snowden attempted to go through the proper channels (and I'd love to see evidence of this), the documents linked in this article only show him testing the waters.

The fact Snowden doesn't want to respond is a pretty good sign this isn't a slam dunk for the anti-spying contingent.

"[Snowden] believes the NSA is still playing games with selective releases, and [he] therefore chooses not to participate in this effort," Wizner said. "He doesn't trust that the intelligence community will operate in good faith."

I think the reason Snowden calls it a game is because he feels the NSA isn't interested in finding out what actually happened.

I think your right that Snowden was "testing the waters" and my guess is he came to the honest conclusion that public disclosure was necessary for there to be even debate on the issue of mass surveillance and there needed to be one.

This article is almost a conspiracy itself! Haha I really went through it slowly, and unless I missed something...it really doesn't seem to read the government was repressing documents...more they just struggled to find all the emails. From what I can tell no document was revealed which shows Snowden really raised concerns in the way he claims. The title of the article is definitely misleading and sensationalist.

> The title of the article is definitely misleading and sensationalist.

I had forgotten what the title was in the process of reading the article. You're right, it's a near perfect example of spun journalism.

Consider the following:

> Because none of the people interviewed by the NSA in the wake of the leaks said that "Snowden mentioned a specific NSA program," and "many" of the people interviewed "affirmed that he never complained about any NSA program," the NSA's counterintelligence chief concluded that these conversations about the Constitution and privacy did not amount to raising concerns about the NSA's spying activities.

> That was the basis for the agency's public assertions — including those made by Ledgett during a TED talk later that month — that Snowden never attempted to voice his concerns about the scope of NSA surveillance while at the agency.

Note the infrequent 'Because ... Than ...' type of construct -- but that a particular fact is selected for the 'Because ...' clause it inclines the reader to believe that something is being omitted or hidden from public view (one spuriously continues reading the article hoping to find what it was) - but all the reader gets is:

> Snowden declined to answer a number of very specific questions for this story.

The whole article is written as if something is hidden, omitted and about to come into view! How else to justify the headline title!? But there's really nothing at all.

Yes I agree it was misleading. At most the article established that the US government was making statements that implied a greater certainty than what they had.

I read the whole thing and the content of the article certainly doesn't reflect the headline. The only "revelation" in the article is that Snowden followed up on the one email released by the NSA in person and may have discussed some issues there. In particular he was concerned about the content of the training he was taking and where it was accurate.

What's reasonably new-ish news here is that Snowden had engaged about a failed certification test in person and separately from the Executive Order clarification e-mail.

What's not proven in these docs, but seems at least imaginable perhaps even probable, is that the 702 test contained questions which required answers based on an expired law. That expired law gave analysts much more leeway than they currently had.

If that's what happened, I think we can understand at least partly why Snowden claims he raised more serious concerns, and simultaneously why NSA did not consider complaints about failing his test when evaluating how he had engaged.

Same here, in a way. Seems like he has actually not "reported these clearly problematic programs to more than 10 distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them.", as he stated in front of the EU parliament.

To be fair to Snowden the evidence we have is just those in emails. If he raised issues in person we don't have any evidence that he didn't.

Wow, that was a lot to read. After reading all that, I wonder why Snowden didn't just take his own emails with him, too. He might have overlooked it. Yet, a carbon copy or just stealth copy of any complaints to compliance groups or whatever might be worth remembering for future whistleblowers.

He probably couldn't without raising alarms. As administrator to the SharePoint site he had many means to access (and copy) the files contained therein (from the servers themselves) but to make a big copy of his emails would require very risky operations on his personal workstation. A device that is probably intricately monitored.

The concern is a plausible cover for action. Your suggested solution would be a little difficult to explain away - especially considering the kind of coworkers you'd have at the NSA. Instead of explaining why you're archiving all your mail, you'd have to explain the cabling, capture card, massive video files...

He connected on monitored systems to all kinds of servers under several credentials to steal their files. You think a hidden camera on his chest aimed at his monitor or phone just angled in its direction is too much risk, though?

Yes. There are a lot of rational explanations for why you'd break security protocols, there is no good reason to come into work wearing a wire. Would you rather have to explain a login to IT security, or explain the pinhole camera taped to your chest - after a newly instituted random wanding takes place?

There is not a single, rationale reason why one guy would be mass downloading files under several people's names on his personal machine. Whereas, wearing a wire long enough to look at a few emails entails almost no risk in comparison. There will be nobody noticing it unless you're very careless. You will also leave no records.

There's about no comparison between screenshoting some emails and conning employees out of passwords then mass downloading TS files. My suggestion is WAY lower risk. Worked for CIA and KGB whole Cold War, goo. ;)

I know that you have a good grasp on security, not only is it in your name - but we've discussed the issue before... so the position you're taking on this is surprising. You've never seen an employee blatantly violate security policies in order to meet a deadline, or just because they're way out of their depth? He was writing a unit test that ran in a production environment, there - stupid reason that gets you fired but doesn't result in the FBI landing on you like a ton of bricks. This is kind of a silly discussion though, Snowden was in a very good position to be aware of the risks for his selected course of action.

Cover for action is a tradecraft phrase - the CIA and KGB recognize the importance of running an op on more that wishful thinking and luck. The only reason why miniature cameras are associated with them is because of embarrassing public failures, not because that is their MO.

I just said in another comment he could've done it in many ways that don't involve a camera. It's one among many. Overall point is he was moving massive, unauthorized data from his computer to HD's or something. He could've moved some emails, too. If not due to security, he could sneak photos of a handful of emails. Cover or not given he was about to crash and burn his whole life. He could save them for last.

Do you know how the NSA internal systems operate? Unless you have insider info, I don't see how you can be so sure what risks are involved. It depends entirely on the setup.

E.g. my very, very cursory contact with military computer systems involve visiting offices where access to the classified data and e-mail were physically separated onto different computers and different networks, maintained by different people working in different locations.

It's very possible to have the run of one network and not be able to be sure of how closely he was monitored on the other.

As for taking photos, on one of the contracting gigs I did that involve entirely unclassified jobs at a research institute nothing like the NSA, I was assigned a full time babysitter during the contract. The guy even waited outside the toilets when I had to go, because they were not allowed to let me go anywhere at all alone. These places take security seriously. It is not at all a given that Snowden had reasonable expectation of being in a position where he could take pictures without someone seeing it.

That he was able to do other things is not a good reason for him to take additional risk. On the contrary - it may have been good reason for him to be particularly careful about appearing squeaky clean in other ways to improve his odds if he had to explain away something else.

"Do you know how the NSA internal systems operate? Unless you have insider info, I don't see how you can be so sure what risks are involved. It depends entirely on the setup."

They're normal, boring-ass machines at Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden knows the setup because he configures and administers them. I can't find article right now but we also know Booz Allen Hamilton had less security than what is typical for commercial sector. I think Snowden was even accessing stuff from home WiFi. It was that ridiculous.

"I was assigned a full time babysitter during the contract. The guy even waited outside the toilets when I had to go, because they were not allowed to let me go anywhere at all alone. "

Snowden's situation was nothing like that. He was instead more likely to be the baby sitter as he was in one of most trusted positions. Nobody was looking over his shoulder except if a supervisor or manager showed up on occasion.

"That he was able to do other things is not a good reason for him to take additional risk."

You could say the same thing about the leaks themselves. He took the risk because it was important. That he tried to handle things internally is also important. He repeats it constantly. A tiny risk doing something I've done and covered for 50+ times in shady organizations is worthwhile for him. We wouldn't even be having this discussion if he had.

Yeah, I'm sure he would've raised no suspicions whatsoever by taking snapshots of his NSA workstation screen with a camera. /s

He wouldn't have if he did it right. Security was very lax if you've followed anything about the situation. Whereas, I've done exactly this in a higher security setting. I'm not speculating.

He can bug his computer. He can hide executables tgat copy it to disks. He can screenshot it to disks. He can photo/video the screen. Examples abound. And remember he's a trained, ex-CIA spy. Not some idiot that cant pull off fieldcraft 101.

He just failed to collect evidence one way or another for a key claim.

I was thinking the same thing. Perhaps he does have a copy, and is letting the NSA prove to the world that it will lie if it thinks it can get away with it before releasing them.

Seems to say a whole lot about the lack of clear process. Despite all the investigative power of those following up, they seemed unable to discover if complaints had actually been raised.

Is this article meant to rebut the claims of Clinton et. al. who claim that Snowden could have been an effective whistle-blower? (ie this article is saying he already tried that path and it didn't work)

> Cooper turned to Hillary Clinton and asked, “Secretary Clinton, hero or traitor?” Clinton, who earlier in the debate had described herself as “a progressive who likes to get things done,” replied, “He broke the laws of the United States. He could have been a whistle-blower. He could have gotten all of the protections of being a whistle-blower. He could have raised all the issues that he has raised. And I think there would have been a positive response to that.”


> "We can only crystal ball so much, especially when the protagonist is not bound by facts or the truth."

It is fascinating to read internal debates and conversations happening at NSA. A good number those people publicly claim Snowden is lying and fabricating facts.

I imagine they have to all think at some superficial level that he is a terrible person, liar, criminal, traitor etc. If they question or doubt that they face their cognitive dissonance -- maybe their workplace is the immoral agency here, maybe they are lying and skirting the law. That is a hard pill to swallow I think. It is easier to just keep lying to yourself overall.

'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it'

- Upton Sinclair

I know this is a little off-topic, but this is the first time I learned that Snowden worked for the 'Office of Information Sharing'.

Apparently your best defense is to lawyer up and flat out sue. Being nice gets you nowhere.

As an outsider looking in, that seems to be good advice for all American life.

You can't call yourself an adult until you get a lawyer,

Despite it being a common meme, this is hardly an American thing.

I'd say this is valid for anyone, unfortunately...

I don't know what Snowden expected. Was the NSA supposed to cancel its multibillion dollar program because it went against a contractor's interpretation of the Constitution? It seems to me that the system worked. He raised his concerns and they were duly noted. I don't think he presented any new information that the IG wasn't aware of.

I understand that the NSA is extremely unpopular here, but their actions had the implicit consent of every branch of the US government. I don't see anything in this lengthy article that makes me think they should have acted any differently than they did. The only person that has veto power is the president. Everyone else has to go through proper channels, and should do so with the expectation that nothing will change.

All branches of government, generally, at least in western democracies, are subject to the rule of law. The "implicit consent" of anyone does not, or should not at least, come into play.

He has stated that he expected that the people of the USA, from whom the NSA derives its significant power, would rope it in. And, to some extent, they have continued to fail to do that.

Even if you're against Snowden and defend the NSA, I believe there really was a big miscalculation about how employees would perceive such program if it was badly implemented, and the potential for misuse and mismanagement of those tools. It sounds like immense negligence combined with hawkish cyber warfare ambitions.

The first thing that comes into my mind, is the cost/benefit estimation of him leaking those things if I were in his shoes. So far he managed to mitigate the cost done to him, and did something he believed would benefit his country.

What I'm curious about is the intelligence costs those leaks generated. Were the documents leaked carefully chosen to limit that damage and still prove those programs were unconstitutional? Or was the damage real?

The wild conjecture is out there that as one of the final acts of his presidency, Obama will pardon Snowden. Mostly to get this messy matter off the table of the next president. I really don't know where to place the likelihood of this actually happening.

By the way, I just looked at this a little, it appears like it would be POSSIBLE. Meaning you can pardon someone, like Snowden, before they've even been charged:


But that being said, I don't think Obama of all people would. He has been more pro surveillance than Bush Jr, was more damaged by Snowden, and had tons of political friends damaged by Snowden.

I think people confused the person they wanted Obama to be, and the president Obama has actually been. He is more similar to Bush Jr in these matters than different, and has prosecuted more whistleblowers.

Nixon was pardoned without being charged.

I think people confused the person they wanted Obama to be, and the president Obama has actually been.

Not confused, disappointed.

How would that take the matter off the table? If Snowden could come back, he could travel around the country doing talks, do interviews, organize protests, etc. If you want people to forget about him, you leave him in Russia and don't put too much effort into bringing him back for a trial.

Shall we add more hypotheticals to a hypothetical ;)? Pardons may include stipulations. Suppose this one exacted an agreement that no further germane information ("currently in possession of the putative pardonee") will be made public subject to rescinding said pardon? Presidential pardons are typically treated as sacred by the Justice department no matter their form.

Snowden is already so far down this road, I don't think he would accept anything that forced him to keep quiet. It's pretty clear that he doesn't value his own freedom over his beliefs.

And even if he agreed to not release any new information, that's not really what I meant. If he came back and did an interview on every talk show about what he thinks about the surveillance state, the current administration, whatever, that would make it a huge issue again. If you want it to go away, you need to keep him out of the country and out of the public eye.

Surely this being HN I will be down-voted terribly for this. But I am not at all convinced that Snowden's account is 100% to be trusted in this.

The article in question spends an exceptionally long time examining NSA/DoJ decision making in responding to Snowden's claims that:

> . "I had reported these clearly problematic programs to more than 10 distinct officials, none of whom took any action to address them."

The article provides no evidence that this was true. Or that US Officials' rejection of this position was contrary to the facts. In fact a different reporter might argue that the lack of such evidence given the new documentation provided supports the opposite conclusion.

> The NSA portrayed it as an innocuous question that elicited a direct response when it released the email in 2014.

It may not be an entirely innocuous issue, but it's certainly not equivalent to raising concerns. To suggest the later requires perfect ignorance of how bueracracy works. No one is going to look for 'implicit intent' in you raising a question and escalate it to something more than that. They cc'ed relevant experts to provide an answer and that's really the best you should expect from a large organization. Unless you explicitly report a complaint, nobody is going to go around knocking on the higher ups doors for you.

Another point that I would like to raise that hasn't been mentioned is Snowden's account of his career at the CIA. According to him he was quite senior.

> In March 2012, Dell reassigned Snowden to Hawaii as lead technologist for the NSA's information-sharing office. [0]

In this article we clearly see he signs ( when answering a question about file types) as:

> Ed Snowden, System Administrator

I'm not bringing these up as a proponent of NSA surveillance, but I do think it is important to be critical in this - and I'm no more convinced of Edward Snowden as a witness than before I started reading this.

Particularly I think the article is disingenuously written (Clickbait Title) in following a very lengthy narrative ( to build up suspense? ) without providing much in the way of strong evidence; one expects to finally find it at the end, but curiously finds nothing. If they told me at the start "no emails which would significantly alter the known facts were disclosed" - I could have saved 30 minutes.

[0] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Snowden http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden/

I understand your point, but I think you're misreading the situation a bit.

The U.S. Gov's response that Snowden should have raised his concerns through "proper channels" is pure propaganda. Unfortunately, the highest levels of the executive branch have a very large megaphone, and they rely the fact that there are still citizens who will give them the benefit of doubt, and take what they say at face value.

The laughable implication of the official response is that if Snowden would have brought attention to illegal spying to leadership of an agency who was one of the main architects of the illegal spying programs, there would have been some kind of corrective response.

The only corrective response would have been to crush him like a little bug.

It's hard to say what Snowden was getting at from the sketchy information we have when he had those contacts with members of the NSA OIG. But he did raise topics that were connected with his concerns. I took it as him gingerly putting out feelers to find out how the programs were perceived within the NSA, and the kind of response such inquiries might generate.

One might hope, in a perfect world, that his questions would lead those innocent recipients of his concerns to investigate further, and join the fight to hold these powerful law enforcement organizations accountable to the rules of law.

But we're not living in Disneyland here...

> The laughable implication of the official response is that if Snowden would have brought attention to illegal spying to leadership of an agency who was one of the main architects of the illegal spying programs, there would have been some kind of corrective response.

The bottom line, though, is that you can't criticize the NSA for what you suspect it would have done. You can only criticize it for what it has actually done. You can suspect all you like (and I'll probably join you in suspecting), but if Snowden never did blow the whistle, we'll never know what would have happened if he did.

If this kind of reporting were done on a topic HN is generally critical of, you can bet there would be lots of disparaging comments as to the quality of the journalism.

The fact that the sentiment amongst those on HN is generally, to look at Snowden's disclosures as a positive thing ( I agree ) should not be used as an excuse to adopt a position that is impervious to criticism.

While the culture for raising concerns in government organizations (especially ones dealing with security) may be bad, and the protections afforded to whistle-blowers lacking - to report on these without calling into doubt the claims that Snowden actually did make is dishonest. The litmus test for this is as with scientific publishing which has commercial/political purpose; what would they have published if evidence showed the opposite? Without a doubt it would be numerous media headlines with Snowden's formal complaints suppressed in government conspiracy or something along those lines. Even worse they wrote a title which actually suggests the later, even when the current evidence would point to Snowden's claims lacking foundation.

> I understand your point, but I think you're misreading the situation a bit.

I don't know if this argument is an example of planned deception or spontaneous, but I can give you the general logical form of the type of argument that is being made.

1) A is a True. Evidence will show that...

2) Evidence does not support A.

3) B is True. Why are we talking about A!? B is the crucial issue at hand!

good summary

I hadn't really thought about the issue of contractors and whistleblower status in depth till reading this.

I would assume that he (Snowden) had to talk to someone about blowing the whistle to know he wasn't covered before he did it. He didn't just pull these facts out of his ass. The question is who did he speak to, and what was the context and color of that conversation.

Alternatively he could've just read about prior NSA whistleblowers (like Binnie and others) who tried to blow the whistle on many of the same issues more quietly and instead of being able to keep fighting for the Constitution, they got their doors kicked in and silenced by the legal system.

Edited to correct smartphone auto-"correct" typos

Have a hearty thanks and an upvote for your $0.02, I had not thought of the other whistleblowers as a viable means of figuring this out.

That was a very long read, and the journalist did very little work on behalf of the reader when it comes to summarizing. On the other hand, some in-depth context is good at times.

One thing that jumps out at me as a new understanding of the situation is a kind of mutually-sympathetic view as to how both parties got to where they were.

If you take all the direct statements from both sides as true, then one question is: do we have a plausible story that could have occurred? I'd say so based solely on this article.

To me, I am imagining Mr. Snowden who has significant ethical concerns. Or as is suggested in kind of a classic 'newspeak' bit of advice by the NSA 'process' concerns.

And, as he digs in a little, he learns:

* He has no real protection for whistleblowing, or at least he has even less protection than some other whistleblowers, whose lives are essentially shit.

* The training materials are at best outdated, and if you're inclined to be untrusting, teach people they have legal rights which have expired. Presumably he had become well educated on these laws, and so felt upset when he answered the training test per actual active law, and then failed.

* There is no real culture of concern for uncovering and fixing these gaps.

In addition, the NSA docs say he hadn't been briefed on any methods he could engage with whistleblowing-type concerns.

It's also pretty obvious that those concerns would have been quashed. There has never been, to my knowledge, a public NSA statement that his ethics ("process") complaints had merit.

So, in that world, he made his choices, and he and we live in the world shaped by the consequences of those choices.

On the other side, you have a group of people who felt they were doing the right thing -- good people trying hard in the cause of nationalism and safety -- and just have typical organizational slippage. Nothing nefarious.

And they feel targeted by a very junior contractor with a chip on his shoulder. The e-mails are like "Wait, we train them who to call with concerns. .. Um, well we're supposed to, but schedules are tight lately. So he didn't get that training. ... Yeah, so is there a problem with that 702 test? No, that's just someone junior complaining. People who work here know the drill. That's totally immaterial bitching from someone who's salty about failing. Did he actually raise a big stink about these process concerns? Well, I found this one clarification e-mail. Nothing like what he claims. Are there more? I dunno."

So, maybe there's some whole internal investigation and response that was triggered that's not being released under this FOIA. But it seems to me like both parties could be telling the truth as they see it, at least up to the point that the PR folks get involved and add spin, there's plenty of spin. But, the fundamentals seem to me to be comprehensible from either side.

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