High-Level NSA Official Tied To Husband's Private Signals Intelligence Business, Has A Second Business That Owns A Plane

from the where's-your-<strike>Moses</strike>-data-now? dept

Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston has uncovered more evidence linking the NSA’s SIGINT (signals intelligence) director to a number of private contractors known to do business with the US government — perhaps even the agency itself.

Roston previously exposed the close ties between Teresa Shea’s position and her husband James’ employer, DRS Signal Solutions, a company focused on “SIGINT systems.” Not only that, but business records indicated that James Shea apparently runs Telic Networks, another SIGINT-focused business operating out of their hometown (Ellicott City, Maryland).

Needless to say, neither Teresa Shea, her husband, her husband’s employer, nor the NSA itself have offered anything in the way of comments on this suspicious-looking arrangement. The NSA did offer some boilerplate about “robust internal controls,” but simultaneously stiff-armed Buzzfeed’s request for Teresa Shea’s financial disclosure statements, citing the National Security Act of 1959. (This citation is also agency boilerplate, or at least was until Jason Leopold challenged it with a lawsuit. This move forced former NSA head Keith Alexander’s financial disclosure statements out of its hands. In light of this recent decision, it appears Shea’s statements will be released as well.)

This all looked conflicted enough, but Roston has uncovered more suspicious-looking information.

Yet another company, apparently focused on the office and electronics business, is based at the Shea residence on that well-tended lot.

This company is called Oplnet LLC.

Teresa Shea, who has been at the NSA since 1984, is the company’s resident agent.

The company’s articles of organization, signed by Teresa Shea, show that the firm was established in 1999 primarily “to buy, sell, rent and lease office and electronic equipment and related goods and services.” An attorney who also signed the document, Alan Engel, said he couldn’t comment on client matters.

Roston and Buzzfeed were unable to come up with any hard evidence linking Teresa Shea’s home business with federal contracts, but it did uncover a very interesting purchase.

Records show Oplnet does own a six-seat airplane, as well a condominium property with an assessed value of $275,000 in the resort town of Hilton Head, South Carolina.

Flight records for this aircraft show it has made a majority of its landings at three airports — one of them being Ft. Meade, Maryland, home of the NSA. It is not uncommon for people who own their own planes to actually set up a company to own that plane for a variety of legal and tax reasons — and it’s possible that’s what’s happened here — though it is notable that James Shea has a pilot’s license, while Teresa does not.

Perhaps it’s indicative of nothing at all, other than the overwhelming gravitational pull of the Beltway. But then, there’s this timeline.

1984 – Teresa Shea joins the NSA as an engineer working in SIGINT issues.

1990 – James Shea sets up Sigtek, Inc., which goes on to receive “hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts with the federal government, according to a federal contracting database.”

1999 – Teresa Shea registers Oplnet, using their home address.

2000 – James Shea sells Sigtek, Inc. for $20 million to a British firm, while remaining listed as President of the company.

2007 – James Shea sets up Telic Networks, his newest SIGINT-focused company. This too is “based” at the Sheas’ shared home address.

2010 – Teresa Shea is promoted to Director of SIGINT. Nearly simultaneously, James Shea is named vice president of major SIGINT contractor DRS Signal Solutions.

Much of the Sheas’ shared success hinges on SIGINT — both the government’s expansion of dragnet surveillance and simultaneous growth of SIGINT-focused contractors. Maybe there’s nothing to this, but the silence from everyone involved seems to indicate there’s at least the “appearance of impropriety,” if not flat-out misconduct and abuse of power.

More will be known when (and always appended when dealing with the NSA, if) Shea’s financial disclosure documents are released. At the very least, they’ll at least confirm the information Buzzfeed has dug up and prevent the NSA from boilerplating this whole situation into non-existence. The NSA is taking a second look at Keith Alexander’s post-NSA activities. If it’s willing to go that far, it’s willing to dig up dirt on lower-level officials. You can’t be too careful in the intelligence business these days, not with the eyes of legislators, activists and a whole bunch of pissed-off Americans watching your every move.

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Companies: drs signal solutions, opinet, sigtek, telic networks

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Comments on “High-Level NSA Official Tied To Husband's Private Signals Intelligence Business, Has A Second Business That Owns A Plane”

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18 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Maybe there’s nothing to this, but the silence from everyone involved seems to indicate there’s at least the “appearance of impropriety,” if not flat-out misconduct and abuse of power.

I was going to point out that the silence from everyone involved is SOP for the surveillance state and therefore indicative of nothing – but maybe that’s backwards. Maybe the SOP silence of the surveillance state is because the “appearance of impropriety” is far deeper and more pervasive than a couple of double-dipping SIGINT employees.

Anonymoussays:

I’m concerned with the direction that reporting seems to be taking with regard to the NSA. There have now been multiple stories going after high-level NSA officials for slimy behavior, where they use their influence to make money. While this is certainly bad — and should be dealt with — we should avoid wasting too much energy on such things.

It’s a bit like Snowden in reverse. Rather than defend the NSA’s behavior, people went after Snowden personally, thus hijacking the conversation. Likewise, if civil libertarians start going after individuals in the NSA for their personal corruption, they dilute their message that the intelligence establishment is systematically eroding civil liberties.

Imagine a world where Keith Alexander goes to jail for corruption. Civil libertarians rejoice because they have “won.” But, if the NSA programs remain intact, the victory is hollow. It may be galling that Keith Alexander can make dubious business deals, but if I had to choose between seeing him go to jail or dismantling an unconstitutional intelligence apparatus, I’d take the latter.

John Fendersonsays:

Re:

“Likewise, if civil libertarians start going after individuals in the NSA for their personal corruption, they dilute their message that the intelligence establishment is systematically eroding civil liberties.”

So you believe that only one issue can be addressed at a time, then?

“Civil libertarians rejoice because they have “won.” But, if the NSA programs remain intact, the victory is hollow.”

Not hollow at all. This is only a problem if people stop making a stink about NSA spying, but I see no reason to think that’s what will happen.

Anonymoussays:

Re:

Why would you have to choose?

Could not the argument be made that the current unconstitutional methods the NSA use are encouraging this illegal behaviour on the part of their employees.

By having them arrested for that, would then force people to look upon the methods via the NSA that allowed such crimes to take place to begin with.

Why does it have to be either or

Eldakkasays:

Just to be devil’s advocate here, and not saying this is likely, BUT could it be a case of not corruption, but one of the many methods Intelligence Agencies use to hide intelligence-related expenses for (legitimate) clandestine funding?

For example, maybe these are actually fronts for NSA/CIA operations and ways of funneling payments to agents/spies/operations?

Sure, these people may not be that far removed from the NSA, but it could just be the start of a long chain to hide US Government funding of clandestine operations.

Jasonsays:

I worked for this clown

I worked for Jim Shea (he goes by Jim even though his real name is James) at DRS in Gaithersburg. The guy is a total con artist. You get that feeling from the moment you meet him. He has been brought up on sexual harassment and expense statement fraud charges in the company. That is a fact. Rumors are that he was only hired because his wife ran that group at NSA, and that he could get us more business. I guess he did get more business for himself! The company protects this guy, so he must be bringing in NSA business for DRS. The guy is a joke and none of the employees respect him. Nothing without his wife and her access to USG money.

Aleisha Greensays:

Policing

Would be nice if this much accountability and policing were made available to those who have access to the siggie int system…seems they can just use anyone they want with no questions asked. Even to the point of compromising national security, staging assassinations, and even setting up the government themselves! Maybe the UN human rights council can have a looksy into the daily goings on of people given power to make war against the saints, before they conquer them in undue timing.

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