Secrecy: Press Subpoenas

Snowden Correspondence with NSA OGC [UPDATED]

By Wells Bennett
Thursday, May 29, 2014, 3:45 PM

The ODNI Tumblr site today posted April 2013 e-mail correspondence between Edward Snowden and the NSA's Office of General Counsel---the only such correspondence NSA says it has found. UPDATE [9:30 p.m.]: Snowden has responded to the release this evening---in a Washington Post interview---and called the release "incomplete."  See below the fold.    

The reason for the release is obvious: debate over whether, before leaking classified documents and while still working in the intelligence world, Snowden sought to raise concerns through internal government channels. NBC's Brian Williams asked Snowden about this, in a widely-watched interview aired last night; among other things, Snowden told Williams that the NSA possesses e-mails from him, in which Snowden then had expressed concern---to the General Counsel's Office, and to NSA oversight and compliance people---over the NSA's interpretation of its legal authorities.  (Snowden also mentioned other, informal attempts to raise alarm bells.)

At any rate, the exchange is below. It comprises Snowden's inquiry about training under USSID 18, the legal status of executive orders vis a vis statutes in particular---as well as an answer from an individual working in the NSA's Office of General Counsel.


The Post piece opens as follows:

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden responded to questions from The Washington Post following the release of an e-mail he had sent while working for the National Security Agency.

Q: How do you respond to today’s NSA statement and the release of your email with the Office of General Counsel?

The NSA’s new discovery of written contact between me and its lawyers - after more than a year of denying any such contact existed - raises serious concerns. It reveals as false the NSA’s claim to Barton Gellman of the Washington Post in December of last year, that “after extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”

Today’s release is incomplete, and does not include my correspondence with the Signals Intelligence Directorate’s Office of Compliance, which believed that a classified executive order could take precedence over an act of Congress, contradicting what was just published. It also did not include concerns about how indefensible collection activities - such as breaking into the back-haul communications of major US internet companies - are sometimes concealed under E.O. 12333 to avoid Congressional reporting requirements and regulations.