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Crazy like a loon . . .

. . . or a fox?

In the first part of a two-part series of stories on IC retaliation against employees, Cyber Cast News Service lays out a compelling case for why it is better for one’s career – not to mention their health – to just go along and get along:

Five current and former National Security Agency (NSA) employees have told Cybercast News Service that the agency frequently retaliates against whistleblowers by falsely labeling them “delusional,” “paranoid” or “psychotic.”

The intimidation tactics are allegedly used to protect powerful superiors who might be incriminated by damaging information, the whistleblowers say. They also point to a climate of fear that now pervades the agency. Critics warn that because some employees blew the whistle on alleged foreign espionage and criminal activity, the “psychiatric abuse” and subsequent firings are undermining national security.

It goes on to summarize the case of Russ Tice, a former colleague of mine, but also highlights the case of another intelligence officer: “J”

“J” is a “hyperpolyglot” or a person who is fluent in an unusually high number of languages. Former colleagues described him as a brilliant man possessing critical skills that were “amazing.”

J first ran afoul of the process when his superiors disagreed with a report he and other agency linguists filed on Sept. 11, 1993. Their study of Arabic language messages and the flow of money out of Saudi Arabia to terrorist entities in other countries led them to conclude that Saudi extremists were plotting to attack America. “You could see, this was the pure rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and his group, the exact same group, and we had an early indication,” J said.

Did you catch the date? The Sept 11th part is coincidence. I’m looking at the year: 1993

“All of us in the group had this view of a burgeoning threat, and suddenly we were all trotted off to the office of security. Then came the call to report for a battery of psychological tests,” said J.

J told Cybercast News Service that he was again summoned to undergo psychiatric evaluation after warning NSA that security measures should be taken to protect against the possibility that terrorists might try to fly airplanes into buildings.

The head-shrinkers reason for his “paranoia”?

[…] J said NSA officials described him as “obsessed” with the idea of a “kamikaze” threat due to the time he had spent in Japan. The month was May 2001, four months before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S.

Good thing he never lived in Hawaii. Who KNOWS how far his delusions would have taken him . . .

A similar scenario ensued every time J’s analysis countered conventional wisdom, provided a dissenting opinion or made someone feel that their job was being threatened. J said he soon developed an irregular heartbeat due to the stress of not knowing when he next would be called for another psychiatric test.

Clearly these are extreme cases, but they illustrate the prevailing mindset that still exists throughout the IC: if you’re not going to play along, you’re not going to play at all. Anyone who has ever sat through the production of an NIE knows how it works, but to paraphrase an old Japanese proverb: the nail that sticks up gets the hammer. If you can take the beating you might get a footnote to document your dissent, but the conventional wisdom will always prevail. Is this a bad thing? I think they have commissions to sort that out . . . and of course gravestones.

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.