WASHINGTON -- May 4 -- After speaking on Capitol Hill at an event for national security whistleblowers last week, Intelligence Analyst Russ Tice has been notified by the National Security Agency (NSA) that his security clearance is permanently being taken away and that he will be fired as of May 16, 2005. Tice is a member of the newly formed National Security Whistleblowers Coalition being led by Sibel Edmonds (see http://www.justacitizen.com for more about the Coalition).
In the past two years, Tice has endured unusually abusive retaliation from his agency. In April, after being put on administrative leave for 14 months, Tice was assigned to unload furniture from trucks at a warehouse, an obvious attempt to force him to resign. That assignment led to a back injury. Tice has since been on administrative leave. Tice also did a tour of eight months duty in the motor pool, where he was assigned to maintain agency vehicles (for example, filling them with gas, checking fluids, vacuuming and cleaning) and to chauffeur NSA officials, along with five other employees who were also being punished.
Tice's treatment led the Pentagon Inspector General's Civil Reprisal Investigations unit to take up an investigation into his case. Depending on the result, the Inspector General can recommend to Secretary Rumsfeld that Tice's security clearance and position be reinstated.
Tice has an almost 20-year career in intelligence in the Air Force, Navy, Defense Intelligence Agency, and (more recently) National Security Agency. He has conducted intelligence missions related to the Kosovo War, Afghanistan, the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, and the Iraq War. He was recognized numerous times for the quality of his work. Most recently, he had been nominated to receive an award for his outstanding intelligence work during the Iraq War. In another retaliatory move against Tice, the award was withdrawn after his security clearance was revoked.
Tice has identified at least 24 NSA employees who are also in the same access denial status, many of them for false or unsubstantiated charges. In August 2004, Tice sent a letter to Congress saying that others in the intelligence community were similarly being punished with security clearance revocations: "After talking to others that have suffered a similar fate, I believe that such cases are pervasive. I have encouraged others to contact their congressional representatives and file a complaint with the DOD IG [Department of Defense Inspector General], but fear keeps them from doing so."
Tice's story was first reported by investigative reporter Bill Gertz at the Washington Times (see http://www.washtimes.com/national/20041020-112923-1126r.htm and http://www.washingtontimes.com/national/20050219-115743-9136r.htm).
In 2001, Tice reported his suspicion that a co-worker at the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he worked, might be a Chinese spy. He continued to be concerned by the co-worker's suspicious behavior. Two years later, the FBI discovered that informant Katrina Leung was possibly selling secrets to China. At that point, Tice had transferred to the NSA. The Leung case prompted Tice to pursue his suspicions again in an email to security officials. That email triggered a series of retaliatory events by NSA that have led to Tice's firing.
In a typical move that is often seen in whistleblower cases, Tice was subjected to a psychiatric evaluation which led to his security clearance being suspended. Until that point, Tice had passed regular psychiatric evaluations including an evaluation by the same office just nine months prior.
NSA's process for determining whether Tice would keep his security clearance followed an Orwellian path. The NSA panel that finalized his firing included the very people who were involved in the retaliation against him. Four of the five members of the panel would not reveal their full names to Tice. However, he found out their names later. NSA would not provide Tice with a copy of the procedural rules for revocation of clearances. For example, NSA would not describe who selected the panel members, how they made the decision, or an explanation for why they made their decision.
Last week, Tice and other national security whistleblowers met with members of Congress to urge them to take up the agenda of improving whistleblower protections. At the event last week on Capitol Hill, Tice said: "Until the [intelligence community] can no longer use security clearances as weapons of retaliation without any fear of any form of oversight, there will be no incentive for them to stop this outrageous practice."
Also last week, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) also issued a report -- Homeland and National Security Whistleblower
Protections: The Unfinished Agenda -- noting that revocation of national security clearances has become the "weapon of choice for those managers who retaliate."
In April, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved legislation that would make security clearance revocations subject to whistleblower protections (S. 494). However, in the last session of Congress, House Government Reform Committee Chair Tom Davis stripped that provision out of the House version of the same bill.
POGO investigates, exposes, and seeks to remedy systemic abuses of power, mismanagement, and subservience by the federal government to powerful special interests. Founded in 1981, POGO is a politically-independent, nonprofit watchdog that strives to promote a government that is accountable to the citizenry.