I may have already mentioned in this blog the story of my time in exile, but I haven’t told the whole story. So I’ll tell it now. I’ll never forget it.
Many years ago, the National Security Agency (NSA—my employer) assigned me for a three-year tour to work on the Intelligence Budget Staff subordinate to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), the highest-level executive in national intelligence who exerted control over all seventeen of the U.S. intelligence agencies. While there, I reviewed and approved funding proposals from all over the intelligence community and was blessed with security clearances and access to classified projects I’d never heard of before and have heard nothing of since. That I was given the assignment at all was a testament to my good standing in the intelligence community.
One day I received a proposal from the President of the United States. I’m reluctant to say which president it was because of the extreme secrecy of the planned operation. A mere handful of government officials, me included, were allowed to know of its existence. The undertaking it proposed would include clandestine actions in a number of overseas locations on foreign soil. I refused to fund the project on the grounds that it was clearly illegal—it broke multiple laws then in effect—and violated many international treaties to which the U.S. was signatory.
The president was furious. He stripped me of my security clearances and banished me to a warehouse in a seedy and desolate neighborhood of Anacostia. He didn’t want to fire me outright because I could sue the government if he did. That might mean court cases and news headlines about his pet project. The caretaker at the warehouse advised me to arrive and leave the premises during daylight hours because the streets weren’t safe after dark.
I was given no work to do and assigned to a basement room perhaps twenty feet wide whose front wall, with a door that opened onto the hallway, was a large glass window. The only furniture was a desk and a chair. People who worked in the building regularly passed through the hall and took particular pleasure in gawking at me through the window while talking and laughing among themselves. I discovered a curtain on the hall side of the window and closed it in hopes of a little privacy. The next group of workers who went by opened the curtain and watched me.