Forget al Qaeda, the Taliban, terrorists, drug smugglers, Russians, Chinese, and North Korea. It is becoming clear that the entire government apparatus is being utilized to ferret out the people whom the Obama administration considers to be the greatest threat – people who reveal information about government wrongdoing.
The invaluable McClatchy News Service and its excellent reporters Marisa Taylor and Jonathan Landay have written a blockbuster article about a little known program known as the Inside Threat Program that calls upon every government employee to snitch on fellow workers if they have any suspicions at all that those people are leaking information. Failure to snitch will itself be cause for punishment.
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
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. [My italics-MS]
“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.
The 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 of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for “indicators” that include stress, divorce and financial problems. [My italics-MS]
“It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, ‘Hey, let’s get people to snitch on their friends.’ The only thing they haven’t done here is reward it,” said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law. “I’m waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward.”
The Defense Department anti-leak strategy obtained by McClatchy spells out a zero-tolerance policy. Security managers, it says, “must” reprimand or revoke the security clearances – a career-killing penalty – of workers who commit a single severe infraction or multiple lesser breaches “as an unavoidable negative personnel action.”
It is hard to say how over the top this is. Apart from equating leaking to the media with espionage, it is also coercing every person in the government to spy upon their colleagues.
From here it is surely but a short step away from monitoring all government employees 24/7 to see whether they are committing this kind of ‘espionage’.
Big Brother here we come.