Welcome to the Stasi States of America.
“Insider Threat” - This was the kind of thing that was the hallmark of the regimes that we used to claim we were confronting in the Cold War. Like the black oil in the X-Files, it has come home to roost in it’s new host society…us.
“This is about profiling.”
We’ve gone from our standard, good ol’ American racial profiling, to now one of political profiling. You’ve really got to laugh at how government memos talk about keeping an eye on people who read The Onion as a potential sign of ‘anti-government’ attitudes.
For nearly two years, the White House has waged a program called Insider Threat that forces government employees to remain on the constant lookout for their colleagues’ behavior and to report their suspicions. According to McClatchy news, it targets government officials who leak any information, not just classified material.
And beyond places like the National Security Agency or the Pentagon, Insider Threat also covers employees in agencies or departments like the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration, the Departments of Education and Agriculture. As part of the program, staffers at the Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have taken an online tutorial called “Treason 101,” which instructs them to look out for employees fitting the psychological profile of spies. The Department of Education has told its employees that, quote, “certain life experiences … might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” These experiences include, quote, “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”
In addition to demanding that government workers monitor their colleagues’ behavior, the Insider Threat Program even encourages penalties against those who fail to report what they see. And it regards leaks to the media as a form of espionage. A Pentagon strategy document instructs agency superiors, quote, “Hammer this fact home … leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States.” All this leads McClatchy to warn, quote, “The [Insider Threat] program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations.”
“The problem here is, though, that the definition, or at least the instructions from the White House to the agencies in implementing the program, is exceedingly broad and has left many of the details to the agencies and departments themselves to implement. And some of these departments, we’ve found, are not only going after leaks of classified information, but leaks, unauthorized leaks, of any information at all. It involves what we—what appears to be profiling by workers of their co-workers and admonitions to supervisors that they had better make sure that any suspicious behavior is reported, because that could be a sign of a security risk among their staff.
“And beyond that, it exhorts employees of these federal agencies, at least within the Pentagon and other agencies, to treat leaks like espionage. In other words, if anybody leaks to the press, that’s like leaking to the enemies of the United States. We asked the Pentagon, “How do you accommodate something like the leak of the Pentagon Papers with this kind of policy, i.e. the leak of information that showed that successive American governments had misled and lied to their people about the conduct of the war in Indochina?” And we received no answer, no direct answer to our question, from the Pentagon.”