A former congressional staffer and NSA whistleblower who the authorities suspected of exposing the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program is suing the government, saying her constitutional rights are being violated because her computer seized five years ago has never been returned, and the feds have refused to clear her name.
In a Wednesday telephone interview, Diane Roark, 63, a former senior staffer at the House Intelligence Committee, said she was privy to the warrantless wiretapping the administration adopted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.
“I found about it. I knew about it. They knew I knew about it. I told everybody they needed to put civil liberties protections on it or eliminate it,” she said from her home outside Salem, Oregon.
But she emphatically denied she divulged it to the press. “I have absolutely no idea who did that,” said Roark, who retired in 2002. “My reputation has been completely smeared.”
Five years ago, the feds, suspecting that she leaked the program to The New York Times, which won a Pulitzer Prize for its 2005 story, searched Roark’s three-acre property. The authorities took her computer and printer. The printer was later returned, but the computer was not.
Her suit, (.pdf) filed last week in Oregon federal court, demands the return of her property, and she also claims her due process rights are being breached because the government has never cleared her of wrongdoing.
“I don’t think they will prosecute me. You just never know for sure. A lot of my defense is on that computer,” she said.
The so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program was first disclosed by The New York Times in December 2005, and the government subsequently admitted that the National Security Agency was eavesdropping on Americans’ telephone calls without warrants if the government believed the person on the other line was overseas and associated with terrorism. The government had also secretly enlisted the help of major U.S. telecoms, including AT&T at its Folsom Street facility in San Francisco, to spy on Americans’ phone and internet communications without getting warrants as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.