Ex-NSA official seeks avenue for sharing new allegations

For more than 18 years, Russ Tice worked on some of the most secretive, covert intelligence programs operated by the U.S. government.

Now the 43-year-old former intelligence officer says he wants to "spill [his] guts" to Congress about "probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts" he believes occurred when he worked for the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

"I've dealt with these programs and they're so deep and they're so black, they have no oversight," said Tice, who was fired from NSA last year. "I'm not wanting to out these programs. The problem is there's just very little adult supervision, if any. That's why the abuses have happened."

Tice sent a letter Dec. 16 to the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees saying he wants to report suspected illegal activity. "These acts involve the director of the National Security Agency, the deputy chiefs of staff for air and space operations and the U.S. secretary of defense," he said.

The letter was sent the same day The New York Times reported that President Bush secretly authorized the NSA to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens without a court order.

Tice said he did not work on the program referenced in the Times article, but that his allegations are equally explosive.

"That was Hiroshima and this is Nagasaki," he said. "I want to talk about Nagasaki, which nobody's heard about yet."

He declined to discuss any details of his allegations, saying that doing so would disclose classified information and put him at risk of going to jail. He said he wants to meet in a classified setting with lawmakers or congressional staff.

"If it's done, it's all going to be done in closed session," Tice said. "It's all going to be classified. I'm doing everything I can to make sure you never know what these programs are."

Caught in Limbo

Tice's request, however, has run up against bureaucracy. Because he worked on what are known as "special access programs," congressional staff members are not sure who should meet with him.

"What it really comes down to is a matter of jurisdiction," said an aide to Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee.

Wendy Morigi, spokeswoman for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.V., ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it does not appear the intelligence committee has jurisdiction.

"The senator has expressed interest in hearing what Mr. Tice has to say but was informed that the matters ... are under the jurisdiction of the Armed Services Committee," she said. "Certainly, the senator would support Mr. Tice meeting with the Armed Services Committee and [believes] that Congress should indeed hear what Mr. Tice has to say."

The House Armed Services Committee, however, has yet to receive any request to hear from Tice, said Josh Holly, its spokesman.

"To my knowledge, the intelligence committee has not forwarded that request over to us," he said. "We don't say whether we will meet with someone until a request is made."

Holly added that Tice could also make a request himself to meet with members and committee staff. Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee had no comment Thursday; Republicans did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Tice said he has only been contacted by staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said he will have an informal meeting with them next week.

NSA Response

Complicating matters further, NSA sent Tice a letter Jan. 9 telling him that he has to notify the Defense Department inspectors general or NSA of his complaint, and of the information he intends to share with Congress. The letter added that Tice has to receive direction on how to proceed from the secretary of defense or NSA director - two of the people he alleges were involved in illegal or unconstitutional activity.

Tice said he does not intend to comply with NSA's order.

"I'm done with the NSA. I don't work for them anymore," he said. "The thing is, they're freaking out now because they don't want me to say anything."

He said he hopes the intelligence committees will refer his request for a meeting to the armed services committees. But he added that he wants a written guarantee from congressional members and their staff that they have the proper security clearances and secure facilities before he discusses his allegations.

"I don't have anything in writing from Congress yet," he said. "The ball's in their court, as far as I'm concerned."

Extra Baggage

Tice threw himself into the public spotlight in December, but that was not the first time he has made serious accusations about illegal activity inside the government. Several congressional staffers noted that he "comes with baggage."

In April 2001, while working at the DIA, he alleged that an Asian-American female co-worker might have been a spy for the Chinese government. He knew the woman and reported that she was apparently living beyond her means. He raised the allegation again in 2003 after being transferred to the NSA.

The second time he raised the allegation, however, he was ordered to undergo psychological evaluations. He was diagnosed by NSA psychologists as being paranoid, and the NSA revoked his security clearance. Without a clearance, he was fired last May.

Tice claimed that the order to undergo psychological evaluation and the subsequent revocation of his security clearance were retaliation for alleging that his co-worker was a spy. He also said he saw an independent psychologist who found no evidence that he has a mental disorder.

The DoD and NSA inspectors general investigated Tice's claim that he was retaliated against.

"The record in the case indicates by clear and convincing evidence that the personnel actions against Mr. Tice would have occurred, regardless of the 2001 disclosure," the inspectors said in a redacted report issued last September.

The inspectors did conclude that Tice made a "protected disclosure" in 2001. However, they did not investigate whether Tice's co-worker was a spy. Tice said that, to his knowledge, the allegation has never been investigated.

The Right Time

Tice's spying allegation was made internally, and he never talked publicly about it until after he was fired.

Now, however, Tice said the timing is right to bring forward his new allegations -- that possible illegal or unconstitutional activity took place at the NSA and DIA -- especially since the Times reported last month on NSA eavesdropping. He added that "a barrier" has also been removed, but would not say what that was.

"I've been wanting to do this for a while and I kept my mouth shut," he said.

But he added he does not know what might happen when he finally does report his allegations to Congress.

"To be honest, this stuff is so deep and black that I don't think they're going to [press criminal charges]," he said. "Even though laws more than likely have been broken, I doubt very seriously that they're going to charge anybody with anything because that might compromise some of this stuff by bringing it into the courts."

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