By Janet Phelan
Karen Melton-Stewart, a foreign language intelligence analyst with the Weapons and Space Directorate at the NSA, discovered that the Russians were selling GPS jammers to Iraq before the 2003 US invasion. The jammers would have caused missiles to go off target and very likely hit civilians, as well as US military. Her six month series of subsequent reports, delineating the technical attributes of the Russian GPS jammers and their sale and transfer details was credited by her management team with saving thousands of American lives.
What she didn’t know then was that her efforts very likely cost her her own.
Her reports, which formed the basis of a technical team’s countermeasure efforts, resulted in the US being able to circumvent the jammers and proceed with the effort known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. All the team came up for awards and/or promotions due to this effort and Stewart was also submitted for a promotion by her branch chief. Inexplicably, Stewart’s name was removed from the list and her promotion was given to another analyst, who did not work on the report and whose high school level education did not provide her with the skill set to do so.
And when Stewart wanted to know why she was passed over, she set in play a maelstrom of reaction which she could never have foreseen. At that time, Stewart believed in the integrity of the NSA and had no clue that what she had stumbled upon was an entirely illegal blackmail cell, operating within NSA Security.
Says Stewart, “The woman who got my promotion was a “honey pot,” and was setting up management level NSA officials for sexual blackmail.” Stewart believes that this was being run by a sector within the NSA called NSA Security.
Stewart was subsequently fired from the NSA, after several bouts of veiled accusations that she had made security leaks, numerous lie detector tests and several forced psych evaluations. She had served for 28 years at the time of her termination.
Her problems, however, were only beginning. She has been stalked, surveilled, harassed, subjected to home invasions and is now facing criminal charges for defending herself from an assailant on her own property. This in a state which has a strong “Stand Your Ground” law, Florida.
Russell Tice, a former NSA employee who was also terminated when he began to object to NSA surveillance of US citizens, calls the efforts to imprison Karen Stewart “a typical tactic.” Tice also reports a “robbery” at his residence in which items of value, such as his wife’s pearls and other jewelry, were not taken. In a recent interview with this reporter, he states that he believes the NSA was sweeping his house to see if they could find anything incriminating.
Karen Stewart actually saw the man leaving her house after she was also “swept.” She then saw him shortly thereafter at NSA Security and believes she has determined his identity as “Eric Hagemann,” an NSA executive with Computer Science and Electronics. However, when she requested her attorney to do a records request in Maryland for his driver’s license and photo, Stewart began to be attacked with unconventional weapons. She has joined a growing number of people, including several former intelligence officers, who are alleging microwave and directed energy attacks.
It was during a 2016 visit to her parent’s home in Florida that she was arrested and charged with several crimes, including two felonies. She had previously prevailed upon the local police to curtail the alleged trespass and harassment by a neighbor, Chris Dean. The police had ignored her. According to Stewart, she was packing up her car preparing to return to her home in Maryland, when Dean came onto the property of her parents and, cursing her, took a swing at her. He split her lip. She had a flashlight in her hand and hit back. When Chris continued to batter her, she smashed the windshield and then the back window of his car, which was also parked on her parents’ property.
At that point, the man retreated. Both of them called 911. The Leon County Sheriff’s Department responded and were on the verge of arresting Dean for the assault, also witnessed by Karen’s mother, when she reports that a supervisor from the PD showed up, drew aside the officers who had responded to the 911 calls, and instructed them to arrest Stewart.
Prior to taking her to the jail, the police took her to the local hospital for stitches. She made bail quickly and was rearrested within the week. She was charged with “cyberstalking,” due to a trail camera which had been set up on the fence to record any illegal entries onto the property by the neighbor.
She currently faces three charges: 1) Aggravated battery with a deadly weapon (the flashlight), 2) Criminal Mischief (the breaking of Dean’s car windows) and 3) Cyberstalking.
The trail camera, by the way, was not connected to the Internet and could not be implicated in cyberstalking.
At a recent pre-trial hearing, the court suggested a ”deferred prosecution” for Stewart, suggesting that if she were “good,” the prosecution would be withheld, for the time being at least. Stewart has objected heartily to this. Deferred prosecution keeps the accused on a tight leash and opens the door for further prosecutions based on perceptions, rather than concrete behaviors. It is akin to putting someone on probation, but in this case, no crime has been adjudicated.
As it turns out, Chris Dean has had a number of brushes with the law. He has been arrested on several prior occasions, on charges ranging from Driving Under the Influence to Battery, in Florida and in Georgia. Karen’s legal slate, however, is clean.
Her story is sadly not unique. The list of intelligence officers who have come to the attention of the legal system, however, generally only includes those who have been charged with intelligence violations. The list includes, of course, Edward Snowden, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou, Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, Jeffrey Sterling, James Hitselberger, Shami Liebowitz, Bradley Manning, all charged under The Espionage Act under President Obama. Reality Winner, an NSA contractor arrested this past June, is the first to be so charged under the Trump Administration. Prior to Obama, only three individuals had ever been charged under this Act.
A name not gracing this list is that of former NSA intelligence analyst Ken Ford, who was charged with storing classified documents in his home, and who served six years in federal prison. Karen Stewart, who knew Ford, denies that he committed this crime, stating that he was set up by NSA Security. States Stewart, “Ken Ford was an intelligence analyst on Iraqi matters. He was producing reports stating that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, essentially stating that the President lied. He was set up by a woman who was planted on him, whom he was dating, and she put the incriminating documents in his home.” Stewart went on to say, “The security at NSA is daunting. If you try to leave work with so much as a piece of paper in your possession, Security is going to want to know what that paper is and will look it over before letting you out the door. The very idea that Ford left the campus with these documents is laughable.”
It should be noted that during the period of time that Stewart was under intense scrutiny at the NSA, there was an attempt, which failed, to implicate her in a leak to the Baltimore Sun. States Stewart,
The fabricated leak accusation came after I began asking questions as to why a promotion board member informed me (2005) that they had been tricked into giving the double-promotion for my work (2004/2005) to another woman, based on lies from the woman, her friend my technical lead, and the head of W&S who among other W&S managers was sleeping with her and according to yet another analyst, Cindy H., was desperate to get her promoted, but had had her turned down on merit before. The technical lead no doubt was coached to accuse me of leaking something
A) I had absolutely no training in;
B) I had absolutely no access to;
C) and this was easily ascertainable by my education, training, job history and aptitude scores (bad at math/computer science) and the leak had to do with NSA computer problems – Trailblazer.
In fact, this leak was later attributed to Thomas Drake.
When the leak accusation fell flat on its face, other ploys were used against Stewart. Stewart recalls that, “Based on this set-up accusation, I was given three polygraphs, the first of which was sabotaged by an abusive examiner. It was this one I flunked for the first time ever. The third polygraph examiner told me I passed the 2nd & 3rd despite an attempt to intimidate me by a third party just before the 3rd and last try.”
Jared Burt, another individual who left the NSA under less than ideal circumstances, refers to what happened with the firing of multiple individuals at the NSA as a “purge.” In a recent interview, he stated that “They spent a number of years setting this up. They wanted to make sure that they could block any avenue towards redress from those they wanted to get rid of.”
In 2009, Stewart filed an EEOC lawsuit against the NSA, alleging wrongful termination.
This reporter has retrieved some of the documents filed in the case, wherein the NSA misstates Stewart’s allegations surrounding her termination, in an apparent further attempt to malign her. Nowhere in her complaint did Stewart say she was terminated because she is white.
In addition, the NSA did not conduct their investigation of her claims within the legal time limit. As instructed by the judge, settlement offers were tendered by her lawyer and the NSA blew these off, too. Their sole and only counter offer was for $1000. This does not even cover the legal fees.
The NSA declined to comment on questions tendered about Karen Melton-Stewart and also declined to confirm or deny any employment record for Eric Hagemann.
At this juncture, the suit appears stalled and has been languishing on the docket without a scheduled hearing for years. Her lawyers repeatedly contacted the EEOC for a case status and update and have gotten no reply.
Yet another attempt to falsely incriminate Stewart was recently made at her home in Maryland. When she saw an individual standing across the street photographing her, she walked up to him and asked him why. He began to yell at her and she walked away. The individual, who has been identified by Howard County Police Department as a “Fred Duvall” then crossed the street, came onto Stewart’s property and called 911. Officer Joel Henderson responded to the call, and determined that Duvall’s accusations of Stewart were invalid, after ascertaining that there was a witness to the entire interaction. According to Howard County PD, the call came in at 1:36 on July 8 of this year and Stewart’s home address was given as the “crime scene.”
The charter for the NSA, drawn up in the fifties, gives the agency the mandate to intercept foreign language communications on foreign soil. These are the people who are supposed to keep our country safe from foreign foes–not from analysts who are wrongfully deprived of a promotion. Beyond the personal nature of Stewart’s own particular plight may lie a strong and compelling warning. A beast which attacks its own constitutes a clear and present danger for us all. If Snowden’s revelations did not make the present nature of the NSA abundantly clear, then Stewart’s story should.
Stewart’s next pre-trial hearing in Leon County takes place on August 31.
Janet Phelan is an investigative journalist and author of the groundbreaking , EXILE. Her articles previously appeared in such mainstream venues as the Los Angeles Times, Orange Coast Magazine, Long Beach Press Telegram, etc. In 2004, Janet “jumped ship” and now exclusively writes for independent media. She is also the author of two collections of poetry—The Hitler Poems and Held Captive. She resides abroad.