(WMR)—In the trial of former National Security Agency (NSA) executive Thomas Drake, federal prosecutors have convinced an agreeable federal judge, Richard D. Bennett, to place under court seal previously released trial documents because they have been deemed “For Official Use Only” or FOUO. Drake is accused of leaking classified materials to the media and is only the fourth person in U.S. history to be charged with violating the 1917 Espionage Act.
FOUO is not a national security classification and it never has been one, although there were attempts by the Reagan, George H W Bush, and George W. Bush administrations to create a “restricted” or “sensitive but unclassified” (SBU) national security classification immediately below the current lowest national security classification, which is Confidential. Expansion of national security classification categories beyond the current three—Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential, in addition to Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) special access categories—but these have been unsuccessful. George W. Bush’s creation of a Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) category was rescinded by Executive Order 13556 on November 4, 2010.
Although President Obama rescinded Bush’s CUI presidential memorandum, federal prosecutors are trying to argue that CUI continues to exist as a national security classification under the guise of FOUO. The argument demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the classification scheme used by NSA. However, in past trials, notable that of NSA analyst Kenneth Ford, Jr., jailed after a political show trial waged by DOJ neocons in league with a “shopped” federal judge. In the Ford case, the NSA wanted to cover up the cooking of signals intelligence from Iraq in order to justify the attack on and occupation of Iraq
However, NSA and Justice Department prosecutors are continuing to insist that FOUO is a security classification in the trial of Drake. NSA and DOJ decided to go after Drake because the documents he stands accused of passing to The Baltimore Sun points to massive misuse of taxpayer’s money and contract fraud under the NSA directorships of retired General Michael Hayden and current director General Keith Alexander. Alexander is also the commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. The fraud committed by Hayden, Alexander, and senior NSA officials amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful expenditures. In some cases, the waste on certain contractor-supplied intelligence systems were life threatening, as far as troops on the ground were concerned. The fraudulent contract expenditures were part of NSA’s massive TRAILBLAZER and GROUNDBREAKER outsourced modernization and restructuring programs.
On March 18, in response to a request from federal prosecutors, Bennett sealed two documents that were previously available on the court’s own website. The documents sealed describe the classified contents of several documents seized at Drake’s home, however, the documents appear to be unclassified working papers that the government, after the fact, is trying to argue are classified at the levels of Secret and Top Secret.
Drake’s federal public defenders have argued in one of the sealed documents that the government’s argument that the documents found in Drake’s home in flawed due to the fact that the documents could not be construed as classified at Secret or Top Secret merely because they contain the words “FOUO” and “COMINT.” COMINT is communications intelligence and by itself does not mean that the document is classified at “Handle Via COMINT Channels Only,” a special handling caveat for SCI special access categories. In fact, the National Cryptologic Museum, which is adjacent to NSA headquarters and open to the public, freely uses “COMINT” in its displays. In addition, the commercial International Spy Museum in downtown Washington, DC has held public seminars on issues dealing with, among other tradecraft, “COMINT.”
From the sealed DOJ letter arguing that the documents found in Drake’s home are classified, it is clear that NSA, which has played fast and loose with the truth in previous trials and administrative actions against its whistleblowing employees, has tried to re-classify previous unclassified “working papers” as being Secret and Top Secret to bolster its case against Drake.
WMR has previously obtained NSA contractor documents that were deemed by the contractor and NSA, itself, as unclassified and the Drake documents appear to fall within the same category. The unclassified documents that were re-classified as Top Secret and Secret have titles such as “Trial and Testing,” “Collections Sites,” “Volume is Our Friend,” “What a Success,” “Regular Meetings,” “Shoestring Budget,” “BAG,” “Buy vs. Make,” “TT Notes,” “Terrorism Threat,” “Note Card 1,” “Note Card 2,” and more intriguing, “9/11 Commission.” WMR previously reported that NSA’s security directorate, the “Q Group,” has engaged in massive surveillance of employees and journalists, including this editor, to plug any leaks on NSA information on the 9/11 attacks. Bennett, in his ruling on March 18, agreed to NSA’s and lead federal prosecutor William Welch II’s request that previously unclassified court filings be placed under seal.
While NSA and DOJ seek to convict Drake for having unclassified For Official use Only documents in which the terms “FOUO” and “COMINT” appear, WMR has obtained a similar Unclassified For Official Use Only (FOUO) document written by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), one of the major contractors for the fraud-ridden GROUNDBREAKER program. In the document, from which WMR is providing excerpts, there are clearly many more NSA-unique systems and terms described.
Cover terms for classified NSA systems such as HIGHCASTLE, LOOKINGGLASS, MILENIUM, FAST TRACK, ROTUNDPIPER, and BRASSCOIN are listed, along with “SIGINT” or “Signals Intelligence,” an NSA mission term comparable to the “COMINT” acronym found in the working papers confiscated from Drake’s home.
The CSC document, maintained by CSC contractors and sub-contractors in their cars, briefcases, and homes, were never indicted by the Justice Department on grounds they violated national security. On the other hand, many at NSA feel that companies like CSC, SAIC, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and others, should have been indicted for the massive contract fraud carried out under the watches of Hayden and Alexander.
In post-9/11 America, the whistleblowers to fraud, waste, and abuse stand accused of being criminals while the criminals rake in billions of dollars in taxpayers’ money and are lauded as critical components of the “intelligence team.”
NSA’s GROUNDBREAKER and TRAILBLAZER contractors were eager to compile as many NSA systems and sub-systems as possible to cash in on the billions of dollars they could make from the NSA outsourcing work. The database that contained all the NSA systems, projects, and components ripe for outsourcing work was code-named JACKPOT. For CSC, SAIC, and certain NSA officials who spun through the revolving door after retirement and landed high-paying jobs with the contractors, it certainly was a JACKPOT and one that NSA, Q Group, the FBI, Department of Justice, and the White House earnestly want to cover-up in the trial of Thomas Drake.
During Drake’s trial, which begins next month in Baltimore, FBI agents are expected to use code words to describe different aspects of the case. One code-word that will most definitely not be heard is JACKPOT, the database of NSA contracts in which contractors and NSA retirees enriched themselves—criminality that is only met with chirping crickets from the so-called “crime fighting” Department of Justice and FBI.
Previously published in the Wayne Madsen Report.
Copyright © 2011 WayneMadenReport.com
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).