1/12/2006

Whistleblower Warned

Ex-NSA Official Told: Don't Testify

Russ Tice, a former intelligence officer with the National Security Agency who claims to be a source for the New York Times' expose last month, has been warned that he should not testify to Congress about accusations of illegal activity at NSA because of the secrecy of the programs involved.

On January 9, Tice received a letter from Renee Seymour, director of NSA special access programs, clearly emphasizing that he should not testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not have the proper security clearances for the secret intelligence.

Mr. Tice said he was not part of the classified NSA program disclosed by the New York Times last month that intercepted telephone, e-mail and other communications involving U.S. citizens without a warrant from a special court. He did work on special access programs related to electronic intelligence gathering at the NSA and DIA, where he took part in space systems communications, non-communications signals, electronic warfare, satellite control, telemetry, sensors and special capability systems.

However, he told ABC News on Tuesday that he was a source for the New York Times.

"As far as I'm concerned, as long as I don't say anything that's classified, I'm not worried," he said. "We need to clean up the intelligence community. We've had abuses, and they need to be addressed."

Now, Tice's credibility is being challenged, with reports that he was fired by the NSA after failing a psychological evaluation. Last May, when he was let go, Rebecca Carr of Cox News service tried to get to the bottom of it. "The National Security Agency fired a high level intelligence official just days after he publicly urged Congress to pass stronger protections for federal whistleblowers facing retaliation," she wrote.

Carr added that "Tice has been at the odds with the agency since he reported suspicions that a female co-worker at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was a spy for the People's Republic of China." And it appears that he's been punished by the agency before, suspending his security clearances in June 2003 and ordering him to maintain the agency's vehicles by pumping gas and cleaning them, along with an order to unload furniture at its warehouse.

Then, the NSA ordered Tice to undergo an unscheduled psychological evaluation, after which a "Defense Department psychologist concluded that Tice suffered from psychotic paranoia." Tice later wrote that he "did this even though he admitted that I did not show any of the normal indications of someone suffering from paranoia." As noted on CBS News' Public Eye blog, government whistleblowers in the past have been forced to undergo psychological testing.

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