Obama executive order requires federal government employees to learn to spy on co-workers, to prevent more WikiLeaks-type disclosures
- Reporter’s question about the secret program has Obama press secretary Jay Carney ‘stumped’ during White House briefing
- Program directs employees to report on co-workers’ habits, travel, financial difficulties and unusual work hours
- October 2011 executive order from the president created a task force led by James Clapper and Eric Holder, which set guidelines for federal agencies
- A new poll found that a majority of Americans see Edwards Snowden as a ‘whistle-blower,’ not a ‘traitor’
By David Martosko DailyMail PUBLISHED: 10 July 2013
President Obama is directing federal employees to rat out their co-workers in a program designed to spot former Bradley Mannings and Ed Snowdens, but experts doubt whether the program is wise or effective
The familiar command ‘If you see something, say something’ has been moved into the federal government’s workplaces, according to a new report.
The government’s Insider Threat Program, a comprehensive initiative that stretches across 5 million security-cleared employees of all federal agencies and their contractors, was brought to life following an executive order from President Obama in 2011. He issued the directive after Army Private Bradley Manning sent untold numbers of classified documents to the anti-secrecy WikiLeaks website.
The initiative asks federal government employees to spy on their co-workers, reporting to program agents on their unusual behaviors, strange attitudes, financial troubles and unprecedented travel – all indicators that a ‘high-risk’ person might be engaged in espionage or other leaking of secret materials in a way that might cause ‘harm to the United States.’
The program was highlighted in a lengthy report from the McClatchy News Service, whose reporters explored how psychological profiling of former computer hackers and espionage offenders revealed patterns and traits that spy experts believed could be identified pre-emptively.
White House press secretary Jay Carney was caught flat-footed during his briefing with reporters Wednesday, admitting that a question about the Insider Threat Program ‘stumped’ him.\
‘I confess that I did not go read the McClatchy story,’ he said.
The government’s own experts are questioning whether the program has value, and if it could be sacrificing personal civil liberties on the altar of enhanced security.
Eric Feldman, a former National Reconnaissance Office inspector general who oversaw spy satellite programs, said the program could create ‘a repressive kind of culture.’
He told McClatchy that the answer to spotting potential leakers shouldn’t be ‘to have a Stasi-like response,’ referringto the feared East German communists’ secret police.
A Quinnipiac University Poll released Wednesday found that for the first time, a plurality of Americans believe government efforts to crack down on terrorism through surveillance of ordinary Americans has gone too far. A strong majority said they see NSA leaker Edward Snowden as a ‘whistle-blower,’ rather than as a ‘traitor.’
A 2008 National Research Council report on detecting terrorists concluded that ‘[t]here is no consensus in the relevant scientific community … regarding whether any behavioral surveillance or physiological monitoring techniques are ready for use at all.’
And ‘doing something similar about predicting future leakers seems even more speculative,’ Stephen Fienberg, a statistics and social science professor at Carnegie Mellon University told McClatchy.
Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement that the Insider Threat Program includes provisions to protect ‘civil rights, civil liberties and privacy,’ but McClatchy reported that she didn’t identify any of them.
The Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive oversees government programs that aim to detect secretive threats to national security. Its spokesman Gene Barlow said that in the past, co-workers of eventual leakers saw patterns of behavior that they never reported to anyone.
‘The awareness effort of the program is to teach people not only what types of activity to report,’ Barlow said, ‘but how to report it and why it is so important to report it.’
But he cautioned that the program ‘does not mandate’ that employees report anything to their supervisors.
“It simply educates employees about basic activities or behavior that might suggest a person is up to improper activity,” he said.
‘If you see someone reading classified documents they should not be reading, especially if this happens multiple times and the person appears nervous that you saw him, that is activity that is suspicious and should be reported, Barlow told McClatchy. ‘The insider threat team then looks at the surrounding facts and draws the conclusions about the activity.’
Some agencies, however, have taken the program further than merely looking for deviations from normal work patterns.
The FBI is asking private security personnel to be on the lookout for employees with ‘a desire to help the “underdog” or a particular cause,’ those who are ‘James Bond Wannabe[s], and anyone with a ‘divided loyalty: allegiance to another person or company or to a country besides the United States.’
The Pentagon is reportedly implementing a system-wide training program whose goal is to set up Insider Threat Program offices with access to every security official and contractor manager.
‘What we really point out is if you’re in doubt, report, because that’s what the investigative personnel are there to do, is to get the bottom of “is this just noise or is this something that is really going on?”‘ a senior Army counterintelligence and security official named Larry Gillis told McClatchy.
The program has become the subject of ridicule among some experts who say noticing odd behaviors isn’t an effective tool for identifying future espionage suspects.
Thomas Fingar, a former State Department intelligence chief who chaired the National Intelligence Council, said that ‘an amateur’ like a typical federal employee would have little success. He also said employees should be oriented toward helping their co-workers, not toward reporting them for internal discipline.
But the Obama administration is poised to implement the program fully, following Edward Snowden’s disclosures about NSA programs that scoop up communications data from ordinary Americans on the strength of directives from secretive courts.
‘Leaks related to national security can put people at risk,’ the president said just weeks ago.
‘They can put men and women in uniform that I’ve sent into the battlefield at risk. They can put some of our intelligence officers, who are in various, dangerous situations that are easily compromised, at risk. … So I make no apologies, and I don’t think the American people would expect me as commander in chief not to be concerned about information that might compromise their missions or might get them killed.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2359673/Obama-executive-order-requires-federal-government-employees-learn-spy-workers-prevent-WikiLeaks-type-disclosures.html#ixzz2YiPR0J9H
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