Whom the Obama administration considers its real enemies

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.


  1. Jeffrey Johnson says

    This certainly puts a big chill on the idea of outing waste, fraud, and abuse. The creeping evil of government secrecy is that it becomes a way to avoid political embarrassment, and a way to make government’s job more convenient because the “annoying public” doesn’t have a chance to complain or raise objections if it doesn’t know what is going on. The idea that citizens are not entitled to know what government is doing in their name completely goes against the idea, expressed so aptly by Abraham Lincoln in the Gettysburg address when he expressed the wish we all should share, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

  2. left0ver1under says

    Insider Threat Program? Isn’t that what George Orwell called it in “1984”, when people turned on each other?

    Reporting war crimes will get you reported to MiniLuv, a one-way-in, no-way-out trip to a black hole.

  3. jamessweet says

    So, I see this particular infraction less as Creeping Big Brother, and more as a desperate attempt to keep the lid on Pandora’s Box.

    The theme of the early 21st century is liquidity of information. There are no more secrets. I have commented previously that I don’t believe in privacy — not in the sense of “I don’t believe in using torture”, but in the sense of “I don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy”. True, this has enabled massive government spying programs, and that is disturbing to say the least. But it also means the government has trouble keeping things truly secret for any length of time.

    This is a last gasp to try to keep the lid on things, not a harbinger of things to come. At least, that’s what I think.

  4. Corvus illlustris says

    To see what the Obama/…/Nixon administration(s) have in mind (if they’re not doing it already). go to the Krugman NYT blog for June 17th (60th anniversary for those of us with long memories) and read Kim Lane Scheppele’s report on what the Viktor Orbán goverment is doing in Hungary.

  5. MNb says

    Absolutely. I was suffering from internetdyslexie once again. When reading things on paper this hardly ever happens to me, but quite often when reading internet articles.
    It’s still a pity.

  6. says

    it also means the government has trouble keeping things truly secret for any length of time.

    I don’t see the value to that argument. They are able to keep things secret long enough to present the people with a fait accompli. Your non-belief in privacy and secrecy would be relevant if the administration had not been able to, say, keep the nonexistence of Iraqi WMD secret before the war. Or keep the CIA’s involvement in the Libyan unrest secret before US military forces got involved, or … shall I go back to Vietnam?

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