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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Highlighted- Obama's 'Insider Threat Program'

By Susan Duclos

McClatchy News highlights an underreported Obama initiative, called the "Insider Threat Program," where workers are forced to spy on their co-workers and requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

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The ramification of the Insider Threat Program concern current and former officials and experts, who believe the program will  make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public and "create toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans."

A Defense Security Service online pamphlet lists a wide range of “reportable” suspicious behaviors, including working outside of normal duty hours. While conceding that not every behavior “represents a spy in our midst,” the pamphlet adds that “every situation needs to be examined to determine whether our nation’s secrets are at risk.”

The Defense Department, traditionally a leading source of media leaks, is still setting up its program, but it has taken numerous steps. They include creating a unit that reviews news reports every day for leaks of classified defense information and implementing new training courses to teach employees how to recognize security risks, including “high-risk” and “disruptive” behaviors among co-workers, according to Defense Department documents reviewed by McClatchy.

“It’s about people’s profiles, their approach to work, how they interact with management. Are they cheery? Are they looking at or The Onion during their lunch break? This is about ‘The Stepford Wives,’” said a second senior Pentagon official, referring to online publications and a 1975 movie about robotically docile housewives. The official said he wanted to remain anonymous to avoid being punished for criticizing the program.

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An example is provided at the end of the McClatchy piece:

Greenstein said she become the target of scrutiny from security officials after she began raising allegations of mismanagement in the CIA’s operations in Baghdad. But she never leaked her complaints, which included an allegation that her security chief deleted details about safety risks from cables. Instead, she relied on the agency’s internal process to make the allegations.

The CIA, however, tried to get the Justice Department to open a criminal case after Greenstein mentioned during a polygraph test that she was writing a book, which is permitted inside the agency as long as it goes through pre-publication review. The CIA then demanded to see her personal computers. When she got them back months later, all that she’d written had been deleted, Greenstein said.

“They clearly perceived me as an insider threat,” said Greenstein, who has since rewritten the book and has received CIA permission to publish portions of it. “By saying ‘I have a problem with this place and I want to make it better,’ I was instantly turned into a security threat,” she said. The CIA declined to comment.

Read the entire article at McClatchy News.

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