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NSA confidence shaken since Snowden leaks began – report

Morale at the US National Security Agency has plummeted since the Edward Snowden leak made international headlines and inspired an ongoing wave of criticism against the intelligence agency – news that coincides with the publication of more NSA documents.

Six months after the first Snowden documents were published in  the Guardian and the Washington Post, the NSA has become an  object of scorn both at home in the US and internationally. A  number of anonymous sources have since told the Post that a lack  of support from President Obama has further impacted morale at  the agency. One official said confidence within the NSA is   “bad overall.”

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.”

Some observers have compared the current situation to 2006, when  then-President Bush traveled to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade to  address a New York Times report that the NSA had been spying on  Americans before the September 11 attacks.

Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on  morale was tremendous,” Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general  from 2002-2006, told the Post. “There’s been nothing like  that from this White House.

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,” Brenner continued. “They feel they’ve been  hung out to dry, and they’re right.”BPH550x110

The President’s reluctance could be attributable to the political  message a visit to Fort Meade would send. Obama has publicly  asserted that, despite their past secrecy, the bulk data  collection programs are fully legal – with his most notable  defense coming in a speech in favor of the government’s massive  collection of Verizon phone records.

Yet the administration has not endorsed a bill that would  entrench that policy into law and Obama said in a recent  interview that he will propose some “self-restraint” depending on  the results of an investigation into the NSA programs.

The President has multiple constituencies – I get it,”   one former US official said. “But he must agree that the  signals intelligence NSA is providing is one of the most  important sources of intelligence today.”

Confronted with reports of NSA employees openly complaining about  the President, White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told the  Post that multiple administration officials have visited to   “express the President’s support and appreciation for all  that NSA does to keep us safe.”

The President has the highest respect for and pride in the  men and women of the intelligence community who work tirelessly  to protect our nation,” Hayden went on. “He’s expressed  that directly to NSA’s leadership and has praised their work in  public. As he said: ‘The men and women of our intelligence  community work every single day to keep us safe because they love  this country and believe in our values. They’re patriots.’”

Yet the pressure appears unlikely to subside any time soon. An  NSA document dated April 3, 2013 obtained by CBC News has  revealed that Canada has built surveillance centers and launched  espionage attacks at the NSA’s request. Citing matters that would  be harmful to Canadian national security, CBC did not publish  details on the document but did note that it reveals the  existence of a secret, 60-year-old intelligence partnership  between the US and Canada.


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