In the controversy surrounding Edward Snowden's decision to leak numerous classified National Security Agency documents, one of the repeated critiques levied by his critics is that the former intelligence contractor should have gone through "propper channels" to voice his concerns about the agency's far-reaching—and what he judged unlawful—surveillance practices.
However, according to new reporting by the Washington Post's Greg Miller, a similarly concerned CIA agent who attempted to get information he thought the public had a right to know discovered just how difficult and perilous efforts to "work within the system" can be.
Miller's report tells the tale of Jeffrey Scudder, a veteran CIA employee, whose career faltered after he made efforts to have long-classified agency materials—"a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations"—released to the public.
As part of his effort, Scudder submitted a completely lawful Freedom of Information Act request, which set off a "harrowing sequence" of events. According to Miller, Scudder "was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family’s computers seized." The fifty-one-year ultimately resigned after being threatened that if he did not, he risked losing portions of his pension.
“I submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career,” Scudder told the Post in an interview. “What was this whole exercise for?”
What happened to Scudder, Miller points out,
highlights the risks to workers who take on their powerful spy-agency employers. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly argued that Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, should have done more to raise his concerns internally rather than exposing America’s espionage secrets to the world. Others who tried to do that have said they were punished.
Scudder’s actions appear to have posed no perceptible risk to national security, but he found himself in the cross hairs of the CIA and FBI.
As journalist Glenn Greenwald noted in response to the article:
Here's what happens to people in the intelligence community when they use "proper procedures" to disclose information http://t.co/GLyFwrW10T— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) July 5, 2014