Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

CIA employee’s quest to release information ‘destroyed my entire career’

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The CIA seems to have serious organizational problems, quite apart from their willingness—indeed, their alacrity—to embrace the systematic use of torture for interrogation (and, presumably, punishment). The fact that the CIA suffers no sanctions and faces no accountability for misbehavior simply allows the organization rot to run deeper—and as this report by Greg Miller in the Washington Post reveals, the rot is already there:

His CIA career included assignments in Africa, Afghanistan and Iraq, but the most perilous posting for Jeffrey Scudder turned out to be a two-year stint in a sleepy office that looks after the agency’s historical files.

It was there that Scudder discovered a stack of articles, hundreds of histories of long-dormant conflicts and operations that he concluded were still being stored in secret years after they should have been shared with the public.

To get them released, Scudder submitted a request under the Freedom of Information Act — a step that any citizen can take, but one that is highly unusual for a CIA employee. Four years later, the CIA has released some of those articles and withheld others. It also has forced Scudder out.

His request set in motion a harrowing sequence. He was confronted by supervisors and accused of mishandling classified information while assembling his FOIA request. His house was raided by the FBI and his family’s computers seized. Stripped of his job and his security clearance, Scudder said he agreed to retire last year after being told that if he refused, he risked losing much of his pension.

In an interview, Scudder, 51, cast his ordeal as a struggle against “mindless” bureaucracy, but acknowledged that it was hard to see any winners in a case that derailed his CIA career, produced no criminal charges from the FBI, and ended with no guarantee that many of the articles he sought will be in the public domain anytime soon.

“I submitted a FOIA and it basically destroyed my entire career,” Scudder said. “What was this whole exercise for?”

The CIA declined to comment on Scudder’s case, citing privacy restrictions and litigation related to his FOIA request. CIA personnel files obtained by The Washington Post accuse Scudder of having classified materials on his home computer and “a history of difficulty in protecting classified information.”

“The CIA does not retaliate or take any personnel action against employees for submitting [FOIA] requests or pursuing them in litigation,” said CIA spokesman Dean Boyd. “Of course, officers at CIA must also exercise their rights consistent with their obligation to protect classified material.”

At a time of renewed debate over the proper balance between secrecy and accountability for U.S. spy agencies, Scudder’s case reveals the extent to which there can be intense disagreement even inside agencies over how much information they should be allowed to withhold from the public and for how long.

Scudder’s case also highlights the risks to workers who take on their powerful spy-agency employers. Senior U.S. intelligence officials have repeatedly argued that Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, should have done more to raise his concerns internally rather than exposing America’s espionage secrets to the world. Others who tried to do that have said they were punished. [emphasis added – LG]

Scudder’s actions appear to have posed no perceptible risk to national security, but he found himself in the cross hairs of the CIA and FBI.

Scudder’s attorney, Mark Zaid, described the case as an example of “aggressive retaliation against employees who seek to act in the public’s interest and challenge perceived poor managerial decisions. . . . The system is really broken.”

The documents sought by Scudder amount to a catalog of a bygone era of espionage. Among them are articles with the titles “Intelligence Lessons from Pearl Harbor” and “Soviet Television — a New Asset for Kremlin Watchers.”

Scudder said he discovered them after he took an assignment in 2007 as a project manager for the CIA’s Historical Collections Division, an office set up to comb the agency’s archives for materials — often decades old — that can be released without posing any security risk.

In recent years, the division has organized the release of records on subjects including the CIA’s role in the publication of the novel Doctor Zhivago and the historic role of women in the CIA workforce.

Scudder was hired by the CIA as a computer expert in the 1980s and rose through the ranks as a project manager in various departments. Colleagues described him as earnest and energetic, an effective troubleshooter who routinely volunteered for assignments in war zones. He also had a reputation for impatience with agency bureaucracy.

“He was excitable and was in almost constant motion,” said Charles A. Briggs, who served as the No. 3 official in the CIA during the Reagan administration and worked alongside Scudder as a contractor in the Historical Collections Division. “He can’t stand not doing what he thinks is proper.”

Scudder led efforts to upgrade the historical collection, converting thousands of documents to digital files that could be searched electronically. In the process, he said, he discovered about 1,600 articles that were listed as released to the public but could not be found at the National Archives. Further searching turned up hundreds more that seemed harmless but were stuck in various stages of declassification review.

Scudder said he made numerous attempts to get the trove released but was repeatedly blocked by the Information Review and Release Group, the office in charge of clearing materials for the public. In 2010, Scudder took a new assignment in the CIA’s Counterintelligence Center, but couldn’t forget his unfinished historical collections business. Filing a FOIA, he thought, might force the agency’s hand. . .

Continue reading.

Authoritarians resent challenges to their authority, regardless of the merit of the challenge. They do not tolerate dissent.

Written by LeisureGuy

5 July 2014 at 8:10 am

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