Bill Gertz reports in today’s Washington Times that former NSA official Russell Tice has asked to testify about allegedly illegal eavesdropping programs. The NSA fired Tice earlier this year; he appears to have been at loggerheads with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the FBI as well as the NSA by the time he was terminated from the NSA. See Rebecca Carr’s Cox News Service report “NSA fires whistleblower.” There is no mention of concern over allegedly illegal NSA activity in connection with his termination, although he does note that a Defense Department psychologist concluded that he suffered from psychotic paranoia.
On Tuesday Tice was interviewed by Amy Goodman on her far-left radio program “Democracy Now!” and the focus was of course on the NSA eavesdropping program. Tice sounds like one of the “nearly a dozen current and former government officials” who were the sources for the December 16 Risen/Lichtblaue New York Times story. The level of analysis underlying his assertions of illegality in the interview is not high.
In his interview with Katie Couric earlier this week, James Risen sympathetically described the motives of the “nearly a dozen” leakers who discussed the NSA program with him roughly as follows:
“The checks and balances that normally keep American foreign policy and national security policy toward the center kind of broke down. You had more of a radicalization, in which the career professionals were not really given a chance to forge a consensus within the administration. The principals — Rumsfeld, Cheney Tenet and Rice — were meeting constantly, setting policy and never allowing the experts, the people who understand the region to have a say.”
According to Risen and his sources, national security policy is to be set by “career professionals” rather than by the elected and appointed officials to whom he refers. When the elcted and appointed officials assert the prerogatives of their office, “career professionals” will take the law into their hands and work together with the New York Times to set things right. (Thanks to reader Charles McFarling for the rough transcript of the Risen quote.)
UPDATE: Tom Maguire of Just One Minute has kindly forwarded a transcript of Risen’s Today Show interview. Here’s the quote above according to the transcript:
COURIC: Meanwhile, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet do not come across very well in this book.
Mr. RISEN: Well, I–I think that during a period from about 2000–from 9/11 through the beginning of the Gulf–the war in Iraq, I think what happened was you–we–the checks and balances that normally keep American foreign policy and national security policy towards the center kind of broke down. And you had more of a radicalization of American foreign policy in which the–the–the career professionals were not really given a chance to kind of forge a consensus within the administration. And so you had the–the–the principles–Rumsfeld, Cheney and Tenet and Rice and many others–who were meeting constantly, setting policy and really never allowed the people who understand–the experts who understand the region to have much of a say.
Maguire comments on the Gertz story in this post.