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1) One week from today, @JoshBurday will represent me in federal district court in a FOIA lawsuit hearing re: Eddington v DoD IG, 17-cv-00128. It’s rare that FOIA cases actually get formal hearings, particularly when one of the defendants is #NSA so some quick background follows.
@JoshBurday 2) At stake is whether #NSA can invoke Section 6 of the NSA Act of 1959 to conceal waste, fraud, abuse or even criminal conduct. Not quite two years ago, the good folks @just_security published my first major piece on this case and our initial findings: justsecurity.org/47632/hayden-n…
@JoshBurday 3) Simply stated, in the four years prior to the 9/11 attacks, a small group of very talented guys at NSA came up with a way to scan digital traffic for signs that a US Person was in comms with terrorists, segregate that traffic for analysis, & discard everything else.
@JoshBurday 4) That system was called THINTHREAD. A HPSCI GOP staffer with the NSA portfolio, Diane Roark, got the NSA THINTHREAD team $3M to develop the system & deploy a prototype, which was deployed to NSA’s foreign satellite (FORNSAT) intercept station in Yakima, WA in Nov. 2000.
@JoshBurday 5) The more declassified version of the DoD IG report from the @just_security piece is courtesy of Josh’s efforts, and if you read it you’ll see that operating from NSA’s Yakima FORNSAT site, THINTHREAD developed intelligence no other NSA system had ever acquired.
@JoshBurday 6) Unfortunately, when Michael Hayden took over #NSA he came in with the insane idea that NSA should outsource development of the next-generation digital network exploitation (DNE) system to a famous Beltway bandit: SAIC. That program, TRAILBLAZER, never produced any intel.
@JoshBurday 7) Hayden killed THINTHREAD three weeks prior to the 9/11 attacks. In the days after 9/11, when the THINTHREAD team learned that the 4th Amendment compliance software was being stripped out of their system & THINTHREAD was to be used for warrantless mass surveillance, they quit.
@JoshBurday 8) Senior NSA manager Tom Drake, who had been involved with THINTHREAD development, took over THINTHREAD & attempted—unsuccessfully—to get Hayden to deploy the full, FISA-compliant THINTHREAD system. NSA refused, & the THINTHREAD team filed a DoD IG hotline complaint in Sep. 2002
@JoshBurday 9) Over the next two years, the DoD IG investigated Hayden’s handling of the TRAILBLAZER & THINTHREAD programs. In December 2004, they released a scathing report, which all but said had THINTHREAD been deployed before 9/11, the attacks could’ve been stopped.
@JoshBurday 10) Even though the DoD IG report was given to the House & Senate Intel committees, they went ahead and promoted Hayden twice, ultimately making him CIA director. Meanwhile, Drake provided an unclassified account of the TRAILBLAZER/THINTHREAD debacle to the Baltimore Sun.
@JoshBurday 11) A subsequent leak investigation targeted the entire THINTHREAD team, including House GOP staffer Diane Roark. Drake faced 10 charges under the Espionage Act. The prosecution fell apart once it became clear that Drake never leaked classified info.
@JoshBurday 12) In 2011 @POGOBlog & @GovAcctProj filed a FOIA & got a heavily redacted version of the 2004 DoD IG TRAILBLAZER/THINTHREAD report released. It was also during this same period (2011-13) that I managed to get access to all 4 classified IG reports on the episode.
@JoshBurday 13) The 2004 DoD IG THINTHREAD/TRAILBLAZER audit report remains the most damning investigative report I’ve read in the 30+ years I’ve been in DC. I was determined to get it released in full if possible. Once I arrived @CatoInstitute I filed a FOIA for it.
@JoshBurday 14) Initially, NSA simply gave me the same version provided to @POGOBlog & @GovAcctProj I appealed, NSA ignored it, and in 2017 Loevy & Loevy filed suit on my behalf. We’ve come some distance since then, but NSA remains determined to conceal the full extent of the debacle.
@JoshBurday 15) If NSA prevails in this case, it will set a precedent whereby an agency investigated by an IG can prevent the release of a damning audit report if they assert a FOIA b(3) exemption (i.e., disclosure not required if info covered by another law), including criminal conduct.
@JoshBurday 16/end) Apologies for the length, but I thought those concerned about federal #surveillance & related abuses would be interested in why this #FOIA case matters so much, particularly with the #PATRIOTAct Sec. 215 telephone metadata program expiration/reauth only a month away.
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