Houston Chronicle

Pelosi questions NSA hire

- By Amy B Wang and Ellen Nakashima

WASHINGTON — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has demanded that acting Defense Secretary Christophe­r Miller immediatel­y halt efforts to install Michael Ellis, a former Republican Party operative, as the lead lawyer for the National Security Agency.

In a letter to Miller sent late Sunday, Pelosi, D-Calif., questioned the timing of the move to place Ellis as the NSA’s general counsel, within 72 hours of Presidente­lect Joe Biden taking office, as an attempt to “burrow” a loyalist of President Donald Trump into a highly sensitive intelligen­ce position in the Biden administra­tion.

The Pentagon general counsel had selected Ellis for the job in November, after a civil service competitio­n and under pressure from the White House, people familiar with the matter said at the time. Gen. Paul Nakasone, the NSA director, was not in favor of Ellis’ selection and sought to delay his installati­on, according to several people familiar with the issue, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivit­y.

Miller on Saturday ordered Nakasone to immediatel­y place Ellis in position as the NSA’s general counsel. Ellis accepted the final job offer Saturday afternoon, and the agency was “moving forward” with his employment, the NSA said in a statement Sunday.

Pelosi called the circumstan­ces and timing of Ellis’ placement “highly suspect.” “The efforts to install him or ‘burrow’ him into a highly sensitive intelligen­ce position 72 hours prior to the beginning of a new administra­tion manifest a disturbing disregard for our national security,” Pelosi stated in her letter.

Pelosi does not have authority to stop Ellis’ hiring, and it is unlikely that her letter will do much to affect the process. In a statement Sunday, Pentagon public affairs officer Russell Goemaere said that once a candidate is selected through the merit system, meets the job requiremen­ts and accepts an offer, if the person is not installed, “it exposes the department, agency and senior leadership to claims for a violation of the merit system principles and processes.”

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