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NSA Watchdog Said Snowden Could Have Come to Him. Now, Whistleblower Retaliation Has Him in Hot Water.


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The United States National Security Agency (NSA) has an Inspector General. The IG heads up the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). The OIG's mission, as stated on the NSA website, is:

The NSA/CSS Office of the Inspector General is the independent agent for individual and organizational integrity within the Agency. Through professional inspections, audits, and investigations, we work to ensure that the Agency respects Constitutional rights, obeys laws and regulations, treats its employees and affiliates fairly, and uses public resources wisely to accomplish its mission. We also work with other IGs in the Defense and Intelligence Communities to advance these common goals.

They even have a hotline so whistleblowers can report wrongdoing.

At the height of the controversy surrounding NSA spying following revelations by Edward Snowden, the NSA's Inspector General was George Ellard. According to Politico, Ellard's very first public comments since holding the position of IG were to say that Snowden should have come to him with concerns about NSA programs.

Barton Gellman/Getty Images

In 2014, Ellard said:

“Snowden could have come to me. We have surprising success in resolving the complaints that are brought to us.”

Ellard went on to say that if Snowden hadn't been satisfied with the NSA's response, he would have been allowed by the NSA to present information to the House and Senate intelligence committees.

Last May, Ellard's insistence that Snowden would have been protected if he had followed protocol rang hollow.

In an article posted by Project On Government Oversight (POGO), it was revealed that Ellard has been on administrative leave since an investigation revealed that he had personally retaliated against another whistleblower:

Then last May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.

Snowden has maintained that he did make his concerns regarding surveillance known, despite denials by the NSA. During an interview with NBC News in May of 2014, Snowden said:

“Still, the fact is that I did raise such concerns both verbally and in writing, and on multiple, continuing occasions - as I have always said, and as NSA has always denied.”

In 2012, President Obama signed Presidential Policy Directive 119 (PPD-119) forbidding retaliation against whistleblowers in the intelligence community.

Apparently, George Ellard missed that memo.