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Dec 11 2013

I’m Gonna Send the NSA a Fruit Basket

Trigger warning: This article contains unfathomable sadness.

You’re definitely going to want to get a box of Kleenex out before you read the incredibly haunting tale of the people who work at the NSA. It seems their morale is down now that Edward Snowden has blown the whistle on a vast range of clearly unconstitutional abuses at the agency.

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.

A White House spokeswoman, Caitlin Hayden, noted that top White House officials have been to the agency to “express the president’s support and appreciation for all that NSA does to keep us safe.”…

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.”…

Morale is “bad overall,” a third former official said. “The news — the Snowden disclosures — it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he said. “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”

I bet the Watergate burglers felt hung out to dry when their crimes were exposed. Poor people. I’m gonna send them a fruit basket. Or maybe a singing telegram. Anyone know where I can find someone who can sing this song?

36 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    When you work for a fascist agency, helping it to do fascist things like spying on loyal, law-abiding citizens, you have no damned right to get upset when the people call you a fascist.

    That goes for the TSA, too.

  2. 2
    Modusoperandi

    I, for one, am glad that the NSA is watching everything. Seriously, I’m pretty sure I might be up to no good. My eyes are all shifty and everything!

  3. 3
    DaveL

    ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t.

    Yes, you are. Some people’s grandmothers use Verizon. Some of them undoubtedly use the same dentist as some real estate broker who once sold a property to a suspected terrorist. You’ve already admitted to spying on such people.

    Some other internet commentator whose name I cannot recall remarked that the NSA, at least, is equipped with the very best acoustic listening equipment with which to hear the playing of that tiny violin.

  4. 4
    doublereed

    Gee, I never considered how illegal and unconstitutional activities might have on morale.

  5. 5
    rabbitscribe

    “It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t. People are feeling bad, beaten down.”

    Disgruntled contractor leaks details of the NSA’s ten-year-old multi-billion-dollar Operation GrannyWatch in 5-4-3-2…

  6. 6
    Taz

    Was this article puplished before or after the revelations that some NSA employees were spying on possible love interests?

  7. 7
    Loqi

    I’m having a pretty rough week at work, too, and I’m also dismayed that Obama hasn’t visited me to show his support.

    Also, publicly approved intelligence missions? Must be a different public than the one I’m a part of. We definitely don’t approve.

  8. 8
    Abby Normal

    They just need a little holiday cheer. And the good news it has never been easier to send them.

  9. 9
    Michael Heath

    doublereed:

    Gee, I never considered how illegal and unconstitutional activities might have on morale.

    None according to the reporter Ed’s citing here. Instead the loss of morale was due to the exposure of their behavior coupled to the president not sufficiently having their back.

  10. 10
    doublereed

    Oh shit, you’re right.

  11. 11
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    One of the issues regarding morale is those employees who don’t accept the activities of their agencies and can’t say a goddamned thing about it to anyone of importance.

  12. 12
    Chiroptera

    Huh. Maybe morale is low because many employees are actually doing legal and Constitutional activities that may be keeping us safe from terrorism…but the activities of the perpetrators of the massive and uncalled for overreach are smearing their reputations.

  13. 13
    D. C. Sessions

    It’s become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, ‘Why are you spying on Grandma?’ And we aren’t.

    Of course, you would say that. And thanks to the State Secrets Privilege, there’s no way to verify that one way or another. So you’ll just have to live with being treated like liars.

    It would be different in a country ruled by the consent of the governed, who have Constitutionally guaranteed rights with checks and balances. However, as your Leaders remind us, we live in the real world not some fantasy out of a civics book.

  14. 14
    regexp

    NSA employees are actually pretty highly regulated in their jobs so I think its a little unfair to demonize them all for clearly questionable actions by a few (including our own President).

    But one observation I’ve made in the last year is I’ve seen a sharp uptick in people leaving the NSA and starting companies. In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees. This is a good thing.

  15. 15
    Raging Bee

    It’s the thought that counts, and they already appreciate your thoughts.

    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…

    Do the public approve of such missions?

    In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees. This is a good thing.

    That depends on what those companies are doing.

  16. 16
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @Chiroptera:

    Good way to put it.

  17. 17
    Anthony K

    Shouldn’t keeping the greatest country in the world safe from its perpetual enemies who hate its freedoms while it plans how to best undermine other democracies be its own reward?

  18. 18
    D. C. Sessions

    But one observation I’ve made in the last year is I’ve seen a sharp uptick in people leaving the NSA and starting companies. In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees.

    You can make a very good startup if you have good ideas and business information, and where better to get good ideas and business information than at the NSA?

  19. 19
    Crimson Clupeidae

    Schadenfruede, thy name is NSA.

    This thread is full of win.

    Oh, and happy holidays, NSA. :)

  20. 20
    hunter

    “In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees. This is a good thing.”

    What do those companies do, and who are their customers?

  21. 21
    daved

    But one observation I’ve made in the last year is I’ve seen a sharp uptick in people leaving the NSA and starting companies. In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees.

    Oh, I don’t know about that. Are private security companies like Blackwater/Xie/whatever an improvement over the government agencies that hire them, rather than using their own employees?

    Meanwhile, another good song to go with this posting is the Rolling Stones’ “Fingerprint File.”

  22. 22
    Reginald Selkirk

    That depends on what those companies are doing.

    That is a good point. Some conservative will undoubtedly figure out that the government can apparently shrink the NSA by outsourcing the snooping to private contractors instead. The result will be iBlackwater.

  23. 23
    tsig

    It would be different in a country ruled by the consent of the governed, who have Constitutionally guaranteed rights with checks and balances. However, as your Leaders remind us, we live in the real world not some fantasy out of a civics book.

    That was your granny’s government*, in today’s world with realpolitik and anti-terrorism running things we have to be more realistic.

    *we know about granny

  24. 24
    eric

    Chiroptera:

    Maybe morale is low because many employees are actually doing legal and Constitutional activities that may be keeping us safe from terrorism…but the activities of the perpetrators of the massive and uncalled for overreach are smearing their reputations.

    This.

    Morale didn’t start going down with Snowden – it started going down when they were ordered to start collecting data from American sources. Most of them were proud to be working on foreign threats, proud they didn’t spy on Americans, and they frankly would not ever want to do that and are only doing so now on the express orders of political appointees.

    I know, I know, “only following orders” isn’t a good excuse. They should quit, right? Maybe. This is not shooting people, it’s collecting phone transmissions. Much harder to walk away from your livelihood and your family’s support for that.

    The problem is compounded by modern use of cellphones and internet, which makes it difficult if not impossible to distinguish between “foreigner signals” and “citizen signals.” Distinguishing constitutional from unconstitutional signal collection has become a lot harder. IMO the guidance the NSA follows on what to collect had to change to keep up with technology. And now, their collection methodologies have to change to address these technologies. The government made absolutely crappy changes to policy and methodology and there’s no excuse for political leadership deciding to intentionally collect information on Americans. But I can see how an analyst would be uncertain what to do: they know that changes must come. And here comes one. It doesn’t look legal to you, but the lawyers tell you it is and frankly, the current methods aren’t working. Do you quit before you try it? Do you give up your income because your layman’s understanding of the law doesn’t jive with what the legal experts who work for your agency tell you?

    I think a lot them hope these scandals blow up some political appointee careers and result in the replacements being more conservative about their mission – i.e., narrowing it back to what it was pre-2000s: spying on foreign threats.

  25. 25
    Modusoperandi

    It should be noted that lots of government work is already done by contractors. Snowden, for one. Government uses private companies to work around the Bill of Rights and contractors, if memory serves, aren’t protected by Whistleblower Statutes. Snowden, for one.

  26. 26
    left0ver1under

    The NSA gets it wrong again, as per usual.

    The think the have “low morale” when they have low morals, and a crisis of conscientious objectors instead of a crisis of conscience.

  27. 27
    Michael Heath

    Modusoperandi writes:

    Government uses private companies to work around the Bill of Rights and contractors, if memory serves, aren’t protected by Whistleblower Statutes. Snowden, for one.

    The CIA outsources quite a bit of its tech services. A primary motivation is to insure labor has an up-to-date skill set. That makes it easier to migrate to more modern technology standards and platforms.

    If a contractor’s employees don’t keep their skill sets fresh, the government can hire another firm whose employees have that skill set. And if some employees in the former firm did maintain their skills, they can easily get hired by the new contractor whose sure to have openings. This is a prudent use of outsourcing.

  28. 28
    freehand

    D. C. Sessions: But one observation I’ve made in the last year is I’ve seen a sharp uptick in people leaving the NSA and starting companies. In just the last week I’ve met with two different companies run by ex-NSA employees.

    You can make a very good startup if you have good ideas and business information, and where better to get good ideas and business information than at the NSA?

    [ring]
    “Good morning, Mr Henderson, this is former agent Smith, formerly assigned to monitor a certain Miss Nouri, a cousin of a terrorist in Tehran and, I believe, your mistress. Would you care to chat about that over a cup of coffee? I’m in the restaurant with you now – see me waving?”
    [...]
    “No? Well perhaps I could interest you in becoming a venture capitalist. I have the perfect idea for the money in your Caiman Islands account…”

  29. 29
    Modusoperandi

    Michael Heath “This is a prudent use of outsourcing.”
    Sure, but I think my point (oddly, one relatively on-topic with the subject of the page) was that it allows the State to sidestep its own rules* while leaving its own [outsourced] employees alone when they find out the nutty shit the government, through them, is doing, via whistleblower statute exemptions for contractors.

    * Ones that, with secret courts with secret decisions about secret interpretations of laws don’t matter any more, and rules that t it didn’t follow anyway, but still…

  30. 30
    dingojack

    ““The agency [NSA] , 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…”
    ““The news — the Snowden disclosures — it questions the integrity of the NSA workforce,” he [an undisclosed NSA source] said. “It’s become very public and very personal…”

    So you’re carrying out allegedly ‘publicly approved missions* but when a whistle-blower actually discloses the illegal crap you’re pulling to the public (and they clearly say they DON’T approve) it hurts your tiny feelings that the public knows about it and dares to call you to account? **
    My heart bleeds.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * when and where, exactly, did the public get to even know about, let alone approve, this Mr Brenner?
    ** Good job the local Internet Tough Guys aren’t in charge, or that ingrate American public would feel the wrath of a few (thousand) 15Mt nuclear devices and to hell with the consequences. :/

  31. 31
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Hey guys, I know I’m a lone and quiet voice here, but can we please do without the collateral damage? Heaping abuse on government workers who are doing their jobs is a tactic of the Tea Partiers.

    A lot of the government workers are doing good things without ever touching civil liberty issues, and they’re getting the short end of a very painful stick from their allies.

  32. 32
    dingojack

    You’re absolutely correct – after all they’re just following orders, amiright?
    @@
    Dingo

  33. 33
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    @dingojack:

    I’m not talking about the people engaged in these types of civil liberties abuses. I’m talking about people who are doing other work in these agencies who unfairly get tarred and feathered for working at those agencies.

  34. 34
    Michael Heath

    Kevin @ 33:

    I’m not talking about the people engaged in these types of civil liberties abuses. I’m talking about people who are doing other work in these agencies who unfairly get tarred and feathered for working at those agencies.

    “[T]arred and feathered”? Hyperbole isn’t your friend here, it’s instead mindful of Sarah Palin falsely claiming that her speech rights are being infringed upon when others merely criticize her. That’s what’s happening here, criticism, not ‘tarring and feathering’. Such rhetoric is typically used by those that can’t make a compelling argument without depending on fallacies.

    Last I knew there was no involuntary servitude at the NSA; so of course those NSA employees and contractors not directly involved in unconstitutional activity are to some degree culpable, and therefore still open to criticism. Since we’re supposedly self-governed, all American adults share some complicity for the actions taken by the NSA. When it comes to the citizenry and underlings of the NSA, it’s about varying degrees of culpability rather than your arbitrarily drawn line regarding who is and isn’t responsible.

    How refreshing it would be to see a group of NSA employees secure the services of the ACLU to demand the NSA cease all unconstitutional activity. Of course they’d need some expert lawyering to finesse the conflict between their not violating confidentiality demands vs. their higher obligation – to protect the Constitution. But that’s a conundrum many in the NSA didn’t create, but instead those policy-makers who has the NSA acting in an unconstitutional manner.

    There are few adult innocents in a self-governed society. That’s a feature of self-governance, not a bug.

  35. 35
    caseloweraz

    There’s a possible solution for any NSA employees who feel down either because they are doing a job they feel is immoral or because their leaders don’t sufficiently praise the job they’re doing. They can resign.

    Of course, finding another job might be difficult. But given the skills the NSA requires, I think they would start at least one step ahead.

  36. 36
    rubin10101

    The Rev Jones Band, with whom I play guitar, just played this song the other night and would be more than happy(way more) to oblige you, sir.

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