WASHINGTON - July 28 -
On Wednesday, July 26, Russell Tice, former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst and a member of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), was approached outside his home by two FBI agents who served him with a subpoena to testify in front of a federal grand jury. NSWBC has obtained a copy of the subpoena issued for Mr. Tice’s testimony and is releasing it to the public for the first time. The subpoena directs Mr. Tice to appear before the jury on August 2, 2006 at 1:00 p.m. in the Eastern District of Virginia. Mr. Tice “will be asked to testify and answer questions concerning possible violations of federal criminal law." [To view the subpoena click here].
In response to the subpoena, Mr. Tice issued the following statement: “This latest action by the government is designed only for one purpose: to ensure that people who witness criminal action being committed by the government are intimidated into remaining silent.” He continued: “To this date I have pursued all the appropriate channels to report unlawful and unconstitutional acts conducted [by the government] while I served as an intelligence officer with the NSA and DIA. It was with my oath as a US intelligence officer to protect and preserve the U.S. Constitution weighing heavy on my mind that I reported acts that I know to be unlawful and unconstitutional. The freedom of the American people cannot be protected when our constitutional liberties are ignored and our nation has decayed into a police state.”
On December 22, 2005, the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition made public a request by Tice to report to Congress probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts by the government while he was an intelligence officer with NSA and DIA. In a press release, NSWBC urged the congress to hold hearings and let Mr. Tice testify. Mr. Tice, a responsible veteran intelligence officer, tried to use the so-called appropriate channels, including the United States Congress, to responsibly and lawfully disclose government wrongdoing. [To read the release click here].
“What we are seeing here is a government desperate to cover up its criminal and unconstitutional conduct. They now are going beyond the usual retaliation against whistleblowers who courageously come forward to report cases of government fraud, waste, abuse, and in some cases such as this one, criminal actions. Their old tactics of intimidation, gag orders, and firing, have not stopped an unprecedented number of whistleblowers from coming forward and doing the right thing. Desperate to prevent the public’s right to know, they now are getting engaged in a witch hunt targeting these patriotic truth tellers.” stated Sibel Edmonds, the Director of National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.
In addition, the timing of the subpoena appears to be more than a little suspect. On July 25, 2006, Judge Matthew Kennelly upheld the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege in Terkel v. AT&T. The crucial issue in the case was whether or not the government’s program of surveillance had been publicly acknowledged, and Kennelly wrote "the focus should be on information that bears persuasive indication of reliability." If there were reliable public reports of the program then the fact of the program’s existence could not be a state secret. Kennelly found that there were no reliable sources of public information about the contested program’s existence sufficient to thwart the government’s need for secrecy. In other words, the existence of the program had not been conclusively established, and the government therefore had a right to prevent probing into the matter. This stops a case that represented a serious threat to the Bush administration.
Professor William Weaver, NSWBC Senior Advisor, stated: “Russ Tice is the only publicly identified NSA employee connected to the New York Times in its December 2005 story publicizing warrantless Bush-ordered surveillance. Tice is also publicly perceived as someone who could authoritatively establish the existence of the program at issue in Terkel; Tice could remedy the defect in the plaintiff’s case cited by Kennelly that allowed the government’s assertion of the state secrets privilege to be successful. Later, on the same day Kennelly’s opinion was filed, the Department of Justice sent out Tice’s subpoena. The date on the subpoena is July 20th, before Kennelly’s decision was filed, but the issue in the Terkel case was so pregnant that it would be easy for the government to anticipate the ruling and only issue the subpoena to Tice if necessary. It has now become necessary, and the government seems to be moving to put pressure on Tice not to reveal information that would confirm the electronic surveillance program at issue in Terkel by threatening him with investigation and possible indictment.”