From 2011 - 2014, Mr. Tye worked as Internet Freedom Section Chief at the U.S. Department of State, where he held a security clearance to receive Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented (TS/SCI) information. During a classified briefing, he learned that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was using Executive Order 12333 as a legal loophole to collect, store and search Americans’ emails, phone calls and online communications without a warrant or any suspicion.
Instead of contacting a reporter or Wikileaks, Mr. Tye paid two lawyers, including Mark S. Zaid, a total of $13,000 to help him navigate the lawful reporting process. With his attorneys, he met with the Inspectors General of the State Department and the NSA, the House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. He also gave a public statement to the U.S. Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. With the advice of counsel, he was able to publicize his allegations in a completely legal way. Following the government’s pre-publication review process, Mr. Tye published an article for the Washington Post. His complaint was covered by the New York Times, The Guardian, Vice, Ars Technica, and Wikipedia. He also gave a TEDx talk on the issue.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence “commend[ed]” Mr. Tye for using the legal reporting process to raise concerns while protecting classified information. Mr. Tye was named one of the “National Security Law Heroes of 2014” by Just Security Blog. Mr. Tye remains bound by his obligation to protect classified information that he learned during his government service — and also by his oath to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.