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Edward Loomis

Edward Loomis worked as an NSA cryptologist from 1964 to 2001. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Loomis unsuccessfully lobbied the agency to adopt a sophisticated data-collection program -- nicknamed "ThinThread" -- to monitor foreign Internet traffic going through the United States. Loomis, who later became the target of a Justice Department investigation into leaks of classified data, told FRONTLINE that had ThinThread been in place before 9/11, the attacks may have been averted. He spoke to FRONTLINE's Jim Gilmore and Mike Wiser on Dec. 12, 2013.

Edward Loomis worked as an NSA cryptologist from 1964 to 2001. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, Loomis unsuccessfully lobbied the agency to adopt a sophisticated data-collection program -- nicknamed "ThinThread" -- to monitor foreign Internet traffic going through the United States. Loomis, who later became the target of a Justice Department investigation into leaks of classified data, told FRONTLINE that had ThinThread been in place before 9/11, the attacks may have been averted. He spoke to FRONTLINE's Jim Gilmore and Mike Wiser on Dec. 12, 2013.

  1. Ψ ShareWhat was ThinThread?

    So let's jump up to ThinThread. ... What's the goal, and what do you come up with?

    I began in the Signals [Intelligence] Automation Research Center [SARC] as kind of a sidekick to who was the chief at that time. But he was planning to retire in 1996, so he took me in and he asked that I take a look at the Internet and see if we could automate some of the processing of any signals that could be acquired off the Internet. I took that as an interesting challenge, because it hadn't really been solved at that point.

    There were four very good programmers, and we sat down and we laid out a design for a series of capabilities that could take raw bits, 1s and 0s, and transform them into a contiguous message and share that with an intelligence analyst who might be interested in examining the Internet traffic to see if there was any meaningful intelligence that could acquired from it. ...

    So the purpose behind ThinThread was to do what?

    I had been doing a series of different applications that could examine the Internet traffic and extract meaningful intelligence from it, and I had a series of small applications, small meaning they were pretty much self-sufficient. When ThinThread began, I was actually asked by my boss to see if we could help the Trailblazer program out by giving them a quick win. So he asked me to put together something that could help, that we had in the SARC.

    I went off, and I strung together approximately five subsystems that we had already experimented with, and one subsystem was still in the early stages of development, and this happened in July 2000. So I went back to him, and I said, ... "This is what we can do." And he said, "Let me see if I can get the Trailblazer program office to support it." And I said, "Sure." I said, "I'll let you handle the politics, and I'll just go back and continue the fun."

    He came back about a week later, and he says, "I want to bring the tech director for the Trailblazer program office in to see what you have." He came down, and we showed them what we could do, and he was impressed with it. He managed to work with the program manager of Trailblazer, and they agreed to let us continue with this ThinThread concept.

    So between July and November of 2000, we were able to finish up that last aspect, and we put it all together. We turned it into operation at several existing field sites, and we got permission from the general counsel to let it run. He also gave us permission to let a couple dozen analysts actually look at the data that we were producing. And it worked.

  2. Ψ Share

    ... In the end, for less than $3 million, you guys were able to basically build an entire program, right?


    Something that really would do the entire job that was necessary?

    It would do the work. But we didn't have robust documentation. We didn't have the minimum, essential integrated logistic support package that would have to be built to actually ship it to the field and have it be supportable. ...

    But for $3 million.

    But for $3 million the R&D had been done, correct. The research and the development had been done.

    And along with the fact that what was built into this program was, there was a hefty and very smart use of filters to prevent against, to protect domestic eavesdropping.

    There was capability where we could detect whether or not the communicant was a U.S. entity or not. And that capability did not get the approval of the general counsel at NSA.


    The individual that I worked with wasn't convinced that it was 100 percent accurate. He preferred the old way of a more manual inspection process. He was reluctant to rely on complete automation. ...

  3. Ψ Share

    So 9/11 happens. How do things change around NSA? What are the first signs that you're in a different world?

    Well, I was in my office on 9/11. And all of a sudden, right after, immediately after the plane struck the first tower, apparently there was some kind of intelligence that indicated that NSA could be a target for a hijacked plane. They knew that there were several other planes that had been hijacked, besides the first one that hit.

    I was told to get the names of everyone who was in my office, make an account, and to email that up to my boss. Then we were excused, and we were told to depart. The whole place was vacated with the exception of a small cadre of people who were left behind. ...

    Was there a feeling around the NSA that this was all of your terrain and something had been missed and some feelings of guilt?

    Oh, yeah, very definitely. I know the SIGINT [signals intelligence] director slept in her office for like two weeks. Didn't even go home. There were a lot of guilt feelings, probably more so by the analysts who were charged with focusing on the terrorism problem than a lot of the other analysts, as well as engineers and computer scientists.

    I mean, we didn't feel like we were responsible, but I felt some remorse, since ThinThread had not been allowed to go into operation. ...

    So you think if it had been in place --

    Well, let me say this. The programs that were running didn't interdict the attack. I feel that the program that I had with some of the selectors that we had built in to focus on the terrorism problem, I feel we may have been able to catch some of the communications that were used for funding the terrorists in this country.

    Now, I also tried to convince the general counsel on a number of occasions that since the Internet, much of the world's Internet traffic transits the United States. I said we ought to take advantage of that and target the Internet here in this country, and he wanted nothing to do with that.

    I said: "But there's so many communications that are going international to international that have no American parties as a party to the communication, and they're coming right through our country. Why can't we collect that?" But it was viewed as a violation of FISA.

    This is post-9/11.

    This was before 9/11. ...

  4. Ψ Share

    Are there hints of what's going on in NSA afterward which shows that there is a new direction on to how to accomplish some of the things you guys have been working to do?

    I believe some of the concepts that we had fostered exist and are being used. However, they're being used under different names. But the code itself that we had created evaporated. All the programmers that worked for me, they left for other jobs after ThinThread was killed.

    But the protections that had been built in, at one point which had been thought to be not robust enough but which certainly are a hell of a lot more robust than what was eventually used, what was the story behind those being not used, those being turned off?

    Americans overseas are protected as well, as well as corporations. When we encountered any of those, Bill Binney had suggested that, "Why don't we encrypt the identity, whether it's an IP address or a DNS address?" And I said: "Gee, that's a good idea. Let me float that by the general counsel and see if it would pass muster."

    Well, it didn't. The general counsel said, "No, that's creating a pen register," he said, "and a pen register is illegal; it's a violation of FISA privacy rights." So I told Bill that, and I did not direct that that be done.

    Bill went in on a weekend, and he ordered one of the programmers to code that. And he gave them encryptions algorithms. So he put it in place, and I didn't find out about it until after I retired that he had done that. ...

    Did it work?

    It worked. However, it never got really tested, because our approach was to encrypt it and give the key to the FISA Court, to the FISC, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we never gave them the key. It was really a very localized test that did not get implemented.

    But it sounds like a perfect solution to the problem that came up later when the bigger system was put in order.

    Absolutely, absolutely. ...

    And this was one of the things that got people irritated, I guess, Bill and [Tom] Drake and all.


    Explain their concerns. ...

    Bill and I were together when Maureen Baginski, the SIGINT director, told us that she was killing the program in August 2001. That was the reason I retired in 2001. Bill and Kirk [Wiebe] found out about the change, the President's Surveillance Program, before they retired. Now, supposedly that went into operation, from what I've gathered through the [Edward] Snowden papers, sometime in October, like Oct. 14 or so.

    They found out about that, and I just refused to believe it. So that was the motivation that they had retired under. Mine was because I thought the hierarchy at NSA had made some very dumb decisions.

    Like what?

    Killing ThinThread. I mean, there was no reason why it couldn't have gone into operation and actually produced intelligence for the agency while Trailblazer was being built. And it just wasn't.

  5. Ψ ShareWhy he didn't believe the NSA was collecting domestic traffic

    Why didn't you believe what Bill and Drake and others were saying?

    I had had 34 meetings between 1996 and 2001 with the Office of the General Counsel and the operations director at FISA oversight personnel. And I had tried to get some relaxations made to the prosecution of Internet traffic repeatedly, in automation, repeatedly, through those 34 meetings. And I got absolutely nowhere.

    I just could not believe, because of the intransigence that I had received from them, I didn't believe that they could possibly have just flip-flopped and gone 180 degrees the other way. I just didn't believe it.

    What were Bill and Kirk telling you though?

    They were telling me that we were collecting American traffic, and I just didn't believe it. ...

    While you were still there, were there people wondering what might be going on? A lot of what people keep bringing up in reports is there would be new computer equipment sitting in the hallways. There would be analysts or computer folks that were transferred to new programs that they couldn't talk about.

    There were computer servers that were rolled into the hallway right outside my office. I'm aware of that; I saw that. But I thought that, hey, maybe finally they're putting more equipment to focus on the terrorist problem.

    I did have a meeting on Sept. 14, 2001, with the general counsel for operations and his assistant and several other attorneys. In this meeting -- it was a two-and-a-half-hour meeting up in the general counsel's office -- and they asked me, "Is there anything that we had in the SARC that could have prevented 9/11?"

    I used that opportunity to go through everything that I had talked to this one attorney about for the last four years.

    I said: "Certainly had we had ThinThread in operation, it would have had a chance of stopping -- I feel we could have uncovered some of the communiqués that were going back and forth between Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Germany and the terrorists who were getting fund transfers to the SunTrust Bank down in Florida. Had some of these suggestions I made, had they been incorporated, I think we could have caught that."

    Any other things that others like Wiebe or Bill were telling you, or Drake, about other things that they were hearing that sort of raised your curiosity about whether maybe there was some other program going on?

    I was aware that they had told me the names of other programs, but I just refused to believe, after all I had been through for 37 years, that all of a sudden things would change and they'd go back to the old ways, back to the early '70s, in violation of what the Church Committee tried to set up under FISA. ...

  6. Ψ Share

    Diane Roark, who we talked to, she was overseeing ThinThread early on, right.


    So you knew Diane.

    Oh, yeah.

    What was her attitude toward ThinThread? How pissed was she when it didn't go forward?

    She was an advocate for everything we were doing in the SARC, because we had a different modus operandi. We had computer scientists, engineers and intelligence analysts all working in the same office, along with a handful of contractors providing us additional support.

    So we had a team collective that we were -- our focus was on rapid prototyping of any application that could be beneficial to an analyst down the road to make their job easier, to do some of the mundane stuff that the searches, the aggregation -- and to deliver them, in essence, intelligence that they could say, "Yes, this is an intercept of intelligence value; we can send it out just as it is." All they had to do was be the checks and balance. But they were the ones who actually came up with the components of the algorithms in how we selected that data.

    And the reason for that, of course, is because you were trying to take a haystack and reduce it down to a small haystack really quickly.

    Correct, correct. ...

  7. Ψ Share

    So there's a lot of frustration here among your comrades.


    Why? How frustrated were they? What was the talk around the water cooler between all of you?

    Well, you've got to remember, there was no water -- the water cooler was virtual.

    Right, the virtual water cooler.

    Right, there was a lot of chatter on the Internet. And of course, all that got gathered up when the FBI raided us all. But we've got our data back now, and it's interesting to go back through there. But some of the conversations were pretty bizarre. And the way Tom writes, he wrote very cryptically. ...

    Like what? What was he writing about?

    Well, he was writing about what was going on, the warrantless stuff. ...

    And concern? And frustration?

    Well, there was frustration. There was clearly frustration. I mean, they did everything they could do legally to raise a flag, I mean, with the appropriate authorities.

    And then all of a sudden, in 2006, out pops this article on the front page of The Baltimore Sun, and it's all about ThinThread. And I'm going, holy cow! And I read it, and there were inaccuracies in the article. And when I read the article, I says, "Gosh, I can't believe anybody that really knew anything about ThinThread wrote this."

    So I concluded it was, like, second- or thirdhand, or some analyst who had lost access to ThinThread was just irate and was just ranting about what he had at one point and lost.

    But back to the communication for one second, the communications that are going back and forth between all of you, what are you thinking?

    I think they're conspiracy theorists; that's what I thought. I just didn't believe -- even though there had been the article that appeared in The New York Times, the James Risen-Eric Lichtblau article, and they sent me a copy of that in an email, and I read it, and I just --

  8. Ψ Share

    Here's what I thought: When I met with all the attorneys on Sept. 14, and I believe some of those were from Dick Cheney's office or the Department of Justice, they were not introduced, but it was clear from the discussions that they were legal beagles. When I was in that room I said, "Why is that you didn't take advantage of Executive Order 12333, Part 2, Section 2.3, which permits you to collect U.S.-to-foreign/foreign-to-U.S. in cases of terrorism?" I said: "All you had to do was get the director to go to the attorney general and get his approval, and it could have been done. You don't need any warrants. You just need a gentleman's approval between two high-ranking government officials."

    I suggested that at this meeting on the 14th.

    What was that meeting about, Sept. 14?

    Sept. 14 was three days after 9/11. It was a meeting that I was asked to attend by Maureen Baginski, the SIGINT director, to meet with the general counsel and discuss what we could do in the SARC to prevent any further terrorist attacks. So I said, "Let us allow collection between U.S.-and-foreign/foreign-to-U.S. against the terrorism problem." I says: "It's in Executive [Order] 12333. It doesn't require a warrant."

    So when all this stuff was going on -- we're collecting Americans' and collecting U.S. citizens' data -- that's what I thought they had done. When all these servers came rolling in, in October, that's what I thought. I thought, gee, maybe they actually finally listened to me.

    So all along, here I am naively believing that for once an attorney there had listened to my suggestion and taken it seriously. And then when I read in one of the Snowden releases that the director made a proposal to Cheney on Sept. 14 -- I had this meeting from 9:30 to noon on Sept. 14 – and sometime that day he goes to Cheney and tells him, "This is what we can do," so I am all along smiling, saying, "Ooh, good, they took my suggestion."

    But this would have allowed domestic spying.

    It would allow spying on communications that were between the U.S. and known terrorists, or terrorists within two degrees of separation from a known terrorist.

    But they went way beyond that.

    Correct. ...

  9. Ψ Share

    So let's finish up interior-wise. Binney, Wiebe and Roark, they filed this complaint with the IG [Inspector General], the Pentagon–

    And myself, I was also.

    So you're involved with that, too. So how is that decision made? And what's the intention?

    Here's what kind of precipitated that complaint to go forward. Bill, Kirk and I had formed a business. We had gotten the permission of the general counsel's IP [intellectual property] attorney to go out and build ThinThread as a private enterprise.

    And the reason for that is what? ...

    It wasn't so much the financial. It was more that we believed what we had could have been useful for not only the intelligence community but the law enforcement community as well, and not only just for the government. It could actually be used for applications in Wall Street, to see if there's trading that's untoward. ...

    And we did have several indications of interest in what we were doing -- NRO, CIA and INSCOM. Every time we went to actually get a contract, all of a sudden there would be a last-minute phone call that would be made, and it would evaporate.

    Why would the NSA want to stop you?

    From what I've heard, this is -- I've not heard this from any officials; I've heard this secondhand from people who were former NSA officials, people who were investigative reporters -- that NSA were scared to death of ThinThread.

    And I don't know why. I don't know whether they were frightened that it would interfere with what -- they had put all their eggs in the Trailblazer basket and it would upset that apple cart or what. But that's what I'd heard. ...

    You all testified to this, to give testimony to the IG report. You're complaining about graft and sort of the ridiculous nature of how they dealt with the Trailblazer issue, correct?


    So why did you eventually guys do that? ...

    The motivation was that we felt that we were being denied an opportunity to obtain business within the intelligence community. We felt there was interference by NSA management in that regard. And we felt that NSA was going down the wrong path with its focus on Trailblazer at an extremely high dollar cost.

    So Kirk had suggested that he would draft up an official complaint. Actually, somebody among the group wanted to go right to the press, and I raised a red flag on that. I said: "We have a lifetime obligation. We can't do that. We have to go through channels." ...

    And Kirk put together a very powerful letter. It didn't go into the detail on some of the fraud that I thought belonged in there, some of the clear ethics violations that I felt should belong in there, but I said, "Go with it."

    We attached our names to it. It went in. A couple of months later Kirk got a response from the IG office, and it said: "Here's your tracking number. We are going to start an investigation." ...

    What was the results of the IG report eventually?

    Oh, the IG report was actually quite favorable toward ThinThread. There was so much redacted from that report. It was at least 95 percent redacted. Most of the redactions were on the Trailblazer critiques. What they allowed to go through was all the negative stuff on ThinThread, and that was mostly the fact that it could never run in a robust fashion throughout the world because we had no maintenance backup to support it -- which is true. I mean, we built it with virtually five programmers, and once they were let go and went to other organizations and other problems, there was nobody that could maintain the code. Nobody knew it.

    That's something that sounds like it could easily have been fixed and easily built.

    It could have been easily fixed, yes. But the government felt it was to their advantage to cast ThinThread as darkly as it could, so that's why they redacted a lot of that stuff.

  10. Ψ Share

    The 2005 article comes out in The New York Times. What does it reveal, and are you surprised at what's coming out?

    The only thing it revealed was the fact that we were collecting American communications. And I'm thinking, well, you know, it's permitted under -- and I told this to Jim Risen when I met with him about a year ago. I told him, I said, "You know, I didn't believe that they were doing --" in fact, this was before Snowden -- I told him, "I don't believe that they're collecting everything." I told him, "They're collecting what I had suggested to the attorneys they could collect," that which was permitted under Executive Order 12333.

    And that would have been legal.


    So you didn't think it was that outrageous --

    Correct. I didn't think it was as pervasive as what's come out since June.

    But what that also does is it sets up a huge investigation into who leaked the material.


    How surprising to you is that?

    Well, I didn't find out that I was on the short list until I was visited in my office on July 26, 2007, by two men in black.

    And all of a sudden I'm being grilled about a certain 10-, 11- or 12-page document that had no security markings and that I supposedly had something to do with that may have had something to do with the warrantless surveillance.

    But it had nothing to do with the warrantless surveillance; that document that they were focused on was an unclassified description of ThinThread that was written by Diane Roark to help us get some interest, because it was written more in the layman's language, and Bill, Kirk and I would tend to write more in geek-speak. It had nothing to with domestic surveillance, absolutely nothing. ...

  11. Ψ Share

    When you have that meeting on Sept. 14, do you talk about the need to be more aggressive in intercepting Internet traffic by using the fact that some of it flows through the U.S.?

    Yes, I did.

    What do you tell them?

    The fact that U.S. Internet hubs handle so much of the worldwide Internet traffic, this was common knowledge back in 2001, and I just felt that the attorneys up to 9/11 had been just too conservative with not permitting NSA collection systems to actually acquire that traffic and just examine it and go after the foreign-to-foreign as well as the foreign-to-U.S. if it could be linked to a specific target of interest.

    We know now they were sweeping up metadata that was purely domestic in that. Was that something you would have suggested?

    No, absolutely not. I would never have suggested that U.S.-to-U.S. communications of any sort be collected without an individualized warrant. ...

  12. Ψ Share

    When was the meeting that you talked about a second ago?

    The Sept. 14 meeting?

    No, the one with the men in black.

    Oh, that occurred on July 26, 2007. ... They interviewed me for approximately 50 minutes, and all the questions surrounded this 10-to-12-page document that may have been classified but bore no classification markings. And I told these guys, I said, "Look," -- they wouldn't tell me the title of it; they wouldn't tell me the author of it; they wouldn't tell me the date it was associated with. And I told them that I had worked for the government since 1964; it is now 2007. I have seen numerous documents that have no classification marks on them that could have been classified.

    So I didn't -- I was clueless as to what they were referring to, and I couldn't help them.

    Were parts of whatever was in this document details that ended up in The New York Times article?

    No. None of it. ...

    All right. So what happens after that?

    This interview took place from about 12:30 to about 20 minutes after 1:00. And they left. They thanked me for my cooperation and left. Ten minutes later I get a phone call from my boss telling me that I'm about to lose my security clearance. I was shocked. ...

    I got taken into a debriefing room. I was told I had to sign a debriefing statement on the spot, no questions. Then they took me back into a conference room. An NSA security officer came over from NSA, and the two of them went through my daypack to make sure I wasn't stealing anything.

    I mean, it was the most humiliating thing I've ever been through in my life.

    What are you thinking?

    I didn't know what was going on. And I asked, I said, "Why did I lose my clearance?" And nobody had a reason. Nobody had an answer. Nobody would tell me. Nobody would tell me until this July, six years later. ...

    And the answer?

    The answer was because I was being investigated by the FBI.

    And why were you being investigated by the FBI?

    Because they thought that I had leaked the warrantless surveillance program to The New York Times.

    Now, if they were collecting everything, like what Snowden is claiming, they would have known that I had no interaction with The New York Times because there's no metadata between my IP address, my telephone and anyone in The New York Times until James Risen finally contacted me last -- a year ago last summer, and said he'd like to meet with me to find out why I didn't believe.

    I gladly met with him and told him why I didn't believe. But that was all before the Snowden revelations. Now I believe. ...

  13. Ψ ShareThe FBI raid on his house

    So what happens next?

    So then I leave the place with my daypack and everything that I had in it. I go home. Drive up the parkway. My wife and I were supposed to go to West Virginia that afternoon, and I walked in the house and I says, "Well, we can go to West Virginia a lot now because I'm no longer working."

    And I went upstairs to change my clothes, and within five minutes of me coming home, there was a knock on the front door, and it's the two men in black knocking on the door. My wife answers the door. One man in black was answering the door; the other one was around the corner near the back door. ...

    So she hollered upstairs to me, and I came down, and I recognized it was the two -- by then the other guy had come around. And I recognized it was the two that had just interviewed me at 12:30 to 20 after 1:00. And this right now is around quarter after 3:00.

    They ask me if they could come in and talk to me, and they ask my wife to leave. So we went into the rec room, and they asked me questions, again about this document. I could not recall what it was they were focused on, because they didn't give me the metadata that described it, other than the fact it was 10 to 12 pages long.

    I just told them, "I can't help you," and then they asked me if I would consent to having them search my house. ... So we consented, and they came in.

    They made a phone call, and within 10 minutes, I had approximately 14 agents appear, parked all around our street in separate cars. I don't know how many cars there were, but it was like, it looked like I had just had a retirement party or something. But they were all around the block.

    Some of them came in with Kevlar vests, like I was ready to blow them away or something. The first thing they wanted to do is they asked me if I had any weapons in the house, and I says, "Yeah, I have a shotgun and a rifle." And they said, "OK, let's go get them," and what they wanted me to do was take them down and open them up and make sure that there was no ammunition in it. It's a precautionary measure for their benefit, and also for mine.

    But they started searching the house around 3:30, and they didn't finish up until 8:30 at night. There was approximately 14 agents. My wife was really paranoid over the whole thing, and she kept asking to be -- we were held captive in the rec room with the two agents that originally interviewed me while the rest just went through everything. My wife would -- every once in a while she'd wonder what they were doing, so she would ask to use the bathroom. The bathrooms were upstairs, so she'd go up, and she'd look in the rooms to see what was going on.

    They were looking under the blankets or under the bedspread. They were looking behind pictures. And they were going through all of our papers, all of our papers. She had papers going back to the '60s that they were just rooting through. And she had a very elaborate file system, and they were just going through them, looking for, I don't know, apparently classified documents or something. I don't know. They were looking for evidence that would indicate that I had something to do with the warrantless surveillance leak. ...

    What do they start taking out of the house?

    Well, they took an inventory of approximately 37 items, and two of the things that -- well, they took my computer, and they never told me they were going to take my computer. Had they told me that they wanted my computer up front, I would not have granted them permission to take it. But they took it. They seized it.

    And they took all little floppy disks that I had. And they took a crashed hard drive that I had. ...

    They took a lot of papers, anything that mentioned NSA, anything that had occurred from, like, 2005 when The New York Times article came out. They took copies of The Baltimore Sun papers that Tom had provided all the input to, that I had no idea he was even communicating with the Sun.

    But something happened at that July 26, 2007 date. I dropped all communication with Bill, Kirk, Tom and Diane. I had no communication with them at all. I went into a shell. I didn't even communicate with my coworkers that I had known for years, one of which was sitting right next to me at my desk when I was raided at L-3 Communications. ...


    Because I didn't want them to get in trouble if I had been in trouble. I didn't want -- I didn't know that Bill, Kirk, Tom -- or Bill, Kirk and Diane had been raided; I was unaware of that. They had called and left messages to call them, but I refused to call them because I didn't know what had precipitated the raid on me. ...

  14. Ψ Share

    So you cut off all communication immediately. What happens next? The raid ends; what happens?

    They carted approximately 30 items out of the house and left. My life was in a shambles at that point. My wife was hysterical; she couldn't believe what had just occurred. I couldn't believe what just occurred. I had no insight into why it had. ...

    Both the agents had given me the cards, and they told me if I could recall anything, to give them a call.  ... Early Saturday morning I woke up out of a sound sleep at 2:30 in the morning thinking, perhaps the article or the document that they were seeking input on was the ThinThread document that Diane had drafted.

    So that morning, I called one of the agents and left a message and said that I might have recalled what it was that you were looking for. ... He called me back, and he said, yes, he would like to talk to me, so we made an appointment the following week to get together, and I met with him over in the Woodlawn FBI building. That's west of Baltimore.

    I told him I think perhaps the document that you were questioning me may have been this document that Diane Roark had written on ThinThread that at one point I thought may have had some classified information in it, and I had advised her to delete it. And it turns out that that's what they were -- that's why supposedly I was raided.

    But this began a series of exchanges that I had with the men in black that totaled 18 hours of interviews over -- this ran from July 26, 2007, all the way up to October 2011. And there were large periods of no communication whatsoever between them and me.

    It was beginning to put a strain on my marriage because I saw no closure on this investigation. I was not the easiest person to live with at the time, because I was just -- here I am, an Eagle Scout, a retired Scoutmaster, very high level in the Order of the Arrow and a devout patriot, and my patriotism is being questioned by the government that I had served for 43 years. I just couldn't -- it just didn't make sense to me. ...

    So what does that do to you?

    It tore me up. I became a recluse, pretty much. I cut off virtually all social contact with friends. And that went on for all too long. I didn't even tell my family members. Didn't tell my kids. I didn't tell my father. It was rough, very rough.

    But I think it's the mental war games that the government does like to play on people that it no longer trusts. I think that's just part of the collateral damage that comes along with having perhaps done something that they didn't fully agree with. The only thing that I did that may not have agreed with was include my name on the complaint on Trailblazer. That's the only thing.

    So how many years did this go on for?

    Well, it's still going on. It's still eating at me. But I've told my family. I told my father before he passed away. I know I've done nothing wrong. And I'm out in the open on it. I don't believe that the persecution that was levied against me is fair. I don't believe it was proper. I think it was a bad decision the government had made. ...

  15. Ψ Share

    So what happens? What happens to the case eventually?

    When I finally said I couldn't live under this rock any longer and I came out around 2010, I stopped and saw -- I'd heard that Bill had been seriously ill. So one day I was down in Prince George's County with a dentist appointment, and I decided on the way back, I think I'll swing by and see how Bill is doing. I knocked on his door, and after a while he eventually opened it, and he had lost a foot at that time.

    It was good to see him. I spent the entire afternoon talking with Bill, and he told me that he and Kirk had been raided, and Diane had been raided, and Tom had been raided, and that he and Kirk had been communicating with Tom and meeting with Tom and that they were after Tom, and that eventually Tom was charged with 10 felony counts.

    For espionage.

    For espionage, right. Well, they weren't all espionage. There were like four espionage counts and six espionage counts, four obstruction of justice and stuff like that. But they were all felonies. ...

    But what really bothered me, the people that had leaked to The New York Times, Tom Tamm and Russell Tice, they were never charged with anything. Tom was charged with espionage, and he had never leaked anything of that to The New York Times or to The Baltimore Sun. ...

  16. Ψ Share

    And your view of whistleblowers today compared to maybe in the past?

    I did not regard as myself as a whistleblower. See, my view of a whistleblower was somebody who took information that they learned on the job and published it in a newspaper. That was my view of a whistleblower.

    I didn't view it as whistleblowing when you filed a formal government-authorized complaint about government wrongdoing where you work. That to me was not whistleblowing. That was following a government directive. I was doing my job reporting that. ...

  17. Ψ Share

    So as far as Snowden, your view of him and what he's going through now, are you surprised at the way the government has dealt with him or is dealing with him at this point?

    Not at all, not at all. We saw what they did with Chelsea Manning. We know that if they had their hands on Snowden, he'd be locked up in Leavenworth and stripped naked and not be given access to a lawyer.

    What Snowden did, he is an extremely brave individual who has a very idealistic view of what the Constitution means to this country and his generation.  ...

    I admire the bravery that he has shown in doing what he did. But I would never have done it, and I would not have suggested to anyone that they ever do anything like that.

    I do object to him releasing so much that he has released. I think all he needed to do was just support Sen. [Ron] Wyden (D-Ore.) by showing him: "Here's the FISA warrant. Now you've got something you can talk about with the rest of the Senate Intelligence Committee." ...

    But now you're the one that was, "Eh, my friends are all conspiratorial nuts."


    What the hell happened? What happened to you?

    Well, when I saw the warrant authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing on a three-month renewal basis collection of all this from the telcos, I said: "They were right; I was wrong. Shame on me. Shame on me for believing my government and not believing my fellow comrades who I'd worked with for a number of years."

    I mean, I was naive, and I admit that; I'll be the first to admit I was extremely naive. And I've told everybody I've talked to on this topic that I was a nonbeliever until June 6 or 7 of this year. I became a believer overnight. ...

  18. Ψ Share9/11 "didn't have to occur"

    How do you now view your former employer?

    ... I really feel kind of sorry for the workers there, the technical people. I understand from what I've read just recently that morale is very poor there, and it's kind of sad because they are very dedicated people. They're hardworking; they believe in the mission. They know what has grown from the 9/11 terrorist attack. We've had endless war -- Afghanistan and Iraq -- and what we've left behind is nothing but deplorable conditions for the people that we left behind. We've ruined the lives of so many servicemen and -women.

    I'm sorry. It's just very unfortunate.

    Unfortunate that what?

    That 9/11 occurred, because it didn't have to occur, I believe. I don't think it was necessary. I do believe it could have been prevented with revisions to the way we were permitted to operate before 9/11, revisions that I tried to get the general counsel to embrace. ...

    I tried to get them to make adjustments to how we were operating, how we were permitted to operate, and they wouldn't do it. I felt this ever since it occurred, that over 3,000 people's lives were lost ... and it's just a weight that I have been having trouble bearing. I'm sorry. ...

    I was hopeful that my past successes in building systems that provided very great value to our agency, to our customers, both in the military side and the civilian side, that the attorneys in the general counsel would be receptive to what I was suggesting. And it was fully in concert with public law, the FISA. But I could make no headway with them, and consequently, we weren't permitted to collect communications between known terrorists and people in the United States before 9/11.

    And consequently, the whole thing was planned out within the United States. And it happened. Had I been more successful in convincing the general counsel going from 1996 all the way up to 2001, maybe it could have been prevented. ...

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