NSA Heats Up Controversy Amid Decision to Destroy Complaint Files
NSA Heats Up Controversy Amid Decision to Destroy Complaint Files © AP Photo/ Charles Dharapak
04:11 06.05.2016(updated 04:12 06.05.2016) Get short URL
The National Security Agency announced it would destroy internal records concerning issues surrounding workplace conflicts, causing a stir that the agency may be suppressing information about retaliation against whistleblowers within the organization.
The papers under question are created by the NSA Ombudsman Program. The program is tasked to settle what are considered to be minor or informal issues, such as personal conflicts between staff, complaints about job assignment, and customer service, including “parking, cafeteria concerns,” National Archives senior records analyst Sean Curry stated.
“The short retention for these records supports the level of confidentiality afforded NSA staff members who utilize the ombudsman for assistance,” the National Archives’ approval reads.
The move, however, caused suspicions that the agency is suppressing inconvenient ombudsman documentation that contains reports on victims of agency retaliation. Tensions mounted amid the high-profile case of NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake.
“Destroy immediately after case is closed,” the new recordkeeping guidelines state, referring to “confidential discussions protected from any outside inspection other than the NSA ombudsman.”
Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, called the step reasonable, noting that most of the internal papers appear to be useless.
“Culling out those that can safely be disposed is a useful function,” he said, suggesting that the deletions should be carried out sensibly. “It’s interesting to see that the disposition of official records like these gets more oversight than many other government functions.”
Former NSA official Thomas Drake was accused in 2010 of violating the Espionage Act after he handed over classified agency data to media outlets. He was also charged with making false statements to the FBI.
Drake’s lawyers demanded the government provide evidence and records at the trial, but the agency claimed that the documentation in question had been destroyed “pursuant to a standard document destruction policy.”
The attorneys for Drake indicated that the move was made, “outside of normal policy and to impede Drake’s ability to defend himself in the criminal case.”