Federal Oversight

NSA asked its IG to resign after revelations of whistleblower retaliation

A new investigative report by the Project on Government Oversight's Adam Zagorin has uncovered an unclassified but not widely public decision finding George Ellard, inspector general of the NSA, retaliated against an NSA whistleblower.

In 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden fled the country before leaking classified emails about the agency's domestic eavesdropping. Ellard, then the agency's top watchdog, openly condemned Snowden's actions, claiming he could have safely reported his allegations without retaliation.

However, an External Review Panel convened under Presidential Policy Directive 19 found evidence of Ellard’s personal actions against another whistleblower, according to anonymous sources speaking to the Project on Government Oversight. This reversed a previous investigation by the Department of Justice that found no proof that Ellard was a retaliator.

The decision of the panel — comprised of IGs from the Justice Department, Treasury Department and CIA — resulted in NSA Director Adm. Michael Rogers issuing Ellard a notice of proposed termination, though sources tell Zagorin that Ellard has remained with the agency on administrative leave during an appeals process.

Government officials have confirmed that the finding will get mentioned in a semiannual report of the Intelligence Community IG to be released in the near future.

Zagorin believes the positive takeaway is that Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive 19, assuming it is not repealed by the Trump administration, will assist even top officials being held accountable for targeting whistleblowers, allowing effective, safe means of reporting agency problems without fear of reprisal.

The entire report can be read on POGO.org.

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