Former officials insist that employees are upset because President Obama hasn’t visited to show his support.
Reuters via The Atlantic,
A strange Washington Post story gives readers the impression that morale is low at the NSA because President Obama hasn’t visited to signal his support for the intelligence agency, even as Edward Snowden’s leaks are causing many to criticize it.
The headline: “NSA morale down after Edward Snowden revelations, former U.S. officials say.”
Morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency’s surveillance activities, according to former officials who say they are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support.
What these “dismayed” sources told the newspaper:
Supporters of the NSA say staffers are not feeling the love.
“The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it’s been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,” said Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. “They feel they’ve been hung out to dry, and they’re right.”
A former U.S. official—who like several other former officials interviewed for this story requested anonymity because he still has dealings with the agency—said: “The president has multiple constituencies—I get it. But he must agree that the signals intelligence NSA is providing is one of the most important sources of intelligence today. So if that’s the case, why isn’t the president taking care of one of the most important elements of the national security apparatus?”
Is this just an attempt to exert pressure on the president and stave off even the mildest criticism of the NSA? The sourcing here seems awfully shoddy. Is a former NSA inspector general who hasn’t worked for the agency in seven years really qualified to pronounce upon the current feelings of every employee? Is the proposition that NSA staffers are all of one mind about recent controversies something we’d credit even if a current NSA employee said it? Did the anonymous “former U.S. official” ever work for the NSA? What “dealings” does he or she presently have with the agency, and how remunerative are those dealings?
After reading what these former officials had to say, Marcy Wheeler points out that NSA employees have a reason for low morale that has nothing to do with Obama’s support:
Most of the NSA’s employees have not been read into many of these programs … That raises the distinct possibility that NSA morale is low not because the President hasn’t given them a pep talk, but because they’re uncomfortable working for an Agency that violates its own claimed rules so often. Most of the men and women at NSA have been led to believe they don’t spy on their fellow citizens. Those claims are crumbling, now matter how often the NSA repeats the word “target.” [PBI: Emphasis added.]