But the NSA turned down Leopold's request. In a lawsuit seeking to compel the release of the Alexander documents, Leopold argues that they're being withheld unlawfully. Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, the NSA has "a mandatory, non-discretionary duty to produce the requested records," his complaint states.
As a matter of law, Leopold is, in fact, entitled to Alexander's financial disclosure forms unless one individual, the president of the United States, decides to suppress them. The law articulates this lone exception as follows:
... this section does not require public availability of a report filed by any individual in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, or the National Security Agency, or any individual engaged in intelligence activities in any agency of the United States, if the President finds or has found that, due to the nature of the office or position occupied by such individual, public disclosure of such report would, by revealing the identity of the individual or other sensitive information, compromise the national interest of the United States ...
There is good reason for the exception. If I could request the financial disclosure forms of every CIA agent, for example, maintaining cover would be impossible. In Alexander's case, however, "revealing the identity of the individual" is not an issue. And as Leopold states in a complaint letter, "The letter denying Mr. Leopold’s request for financial disclosure statements did not indicate that the President had in fact made a finding that, due to the nature of the office or position of the Director of the National Security Agency, the identity of the individual or other sensitive information, compromise the national interest of the United States. Instead, the letter simply cites the exemption provision of the statute. It is not the case, however, that 5 USC app. § 105(a)(1) automatically exempts every employee of the NSA from the public disclosure requirement, and hundreds of NSA employees annually file publicly available financial disclosure forms. Absent evidence of a waiver, public disclosure is required."
The matter thus comes down to Obama's interpretation of a single clause.
The American people are entitled to see Alexander's financial conflicts of interest unless Obama himself declares that revealing them would somehow "compromise the national interest of the United States." Would Obama do so, despite pledges to run the most transparent administration in history? Sadly, those pledges stopped being credible a long time ago. It is nevertheless worth noting what Obama would be saying if he helps suppress Alexander's paperwork: that the national interest would be more imperiled by the public knowing how an extremely powerful government official earned money outside of his official duties than by that very powerful man, with a head full of classified information, selling his services to the highest bidder without meaningful public scrutiny.