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'
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 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.'
In particular, it seeks to identify threats from federal employees who might cause 'damage to the United States through espionage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure of national security information or through the loss or degradation of departmental resources or capabilities,' according to a secret government document prepared by a task force headed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder.
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.
Naysayers point to the TSA's screening program as an indicator that federal government efforts to profile potential threats are far off the mark
'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.'
Fancy yourself a James Bond wannabee? Your Defense Department co-workers could rat you out as a reckless future secret-leaker
A task force headed by Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Attorney General Eric Holder (R) set the standards for the Insider Threat Program
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.'
“It simply educates employees about basic activities or behavior that might suggest a person is up to improper activity,” he said.
The government has been stung by leaks from Edward Snowden, a fugutive former NSA contractor's employee who absconded with state secrets and leaked them to The Guardian, a British newspaper
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.'
'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.
White House press secretary Jay Carney admitted Wednesday that a question about the Insider Threat Program 'stumped' him. 'I confess that I did not go read the McClatchy story,' he said
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#ixzz2Yh2HF9uu
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook