Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The National Security Agency has warned a former intelligence officer that he should not testify to Congress about accusations of illegal activity at NSA because of the secrecy of the programs involved.

Renee Seymour, director of NSA special access programs stated in a Jan. 9 letter to Russ Tice that he should not testify about secret electronic intelligence programs because members and staff of the House and Senate intelligence committees do not have the proper security clearances for the secret intelligence.

Miss Seymour stated that Mr. Tice has “every right” to speak to Congress and that NSA has “no intent to infringe your rights.”

However, she stated that the programs Mr. Tice took part in were so secret that “neither the staff nor the members of the [House intelligence committee] or [Senate intelligence committee] are cleared to receive the information covered by the special access programs, or SAPs.”

“The SAPs to which you refer are controlled by the Department of Defense (DoD) and … neither the staffs nor the members … are cleared to receive the intelligence covered by the SAPs,” Miss Seymour stated.

Special access programs are the most sensitive U.S. intelligence and weapons programs and are exempt from many oversight mechanisms used to check other intelligence agencies.

Miss Seymour also said that Mr. Tice, who was dismissed in May, failed to notify either the Pentagon or NSA of the improper behavior that he is charging.

As a result, she stated that Mr. Tice must first give statements to the Defense Department and NSA inspectors general before he provides any classified information to Congress from the SAPs.

Miss Seymour also said Mr. Tice must first “obtain and follow direction” from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, through the inspectors general on the proper procedures for contacting the congressional oversight committees.

Mr. Tice said he was not part of the classified NSA program disclosed by the New York Times last month that intercepted telephone, e-mail and other communications involving U.S. citizens without a warrant from a special court.

However, he told ABC News on Tuesday that he was a source for the New York Times.

“As far as I’m concerned, as long as I don’t say anything that’s classified, I’m not worried,” he said. “We need to clean up the intelligence community. We’ve had abuses, and they need to be addressed.”

Mr. Tice last month asked to testify to the House and Senate intelligence oversight panels regarding what he called “probable unlawful and unconstitutional acts” that occurred while he was a technical intelligence specialist with NSA and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

He provided no details of the programs.

However, Mr. Tice worked on special access programs related to electronic intelligence gathering while working for the NSA and DIA, where he took part in space systems communications, non-communications signals, electronic warfare, satellite control, telemetry, sensors, and special capability systems.

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