Check on your neighbor

This isn’t very encouraging:

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

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.

The Obama administration already was pursuing an unprecedented number of leak prosecutions, and some in Congress – long one of the most prolific spillers of secrets – favor tightening restrictions on reporters’ access to federal agencies, making many U.S. officials reluctant to even disclose unclassified matters to the public.
“If the folks who are watching within an organization for that insider threat – the lawyers, security officials and psychologists – can figure out that an individual is having money problems or decreased work performance and that person may be starting to come into the window of being an insider threat, superiors can then approach them and try to remove that stress before they become a threat to the organization,” the Pentagon official said.
The Department of Education, meanwhile, informs employees that co-workers going through “certain life experiences . . . might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” Those experiences, the department says in a computer training manual, include “stress, divorce, financial problems” or “frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

Some federal agencies also are using the effort to protect a broader range of information. The Army orders its personnel to report unauthorized disclosures of unclassified information, including details concerning military facilities, activities and personnel.

The Peace Corps, which is in the midst of implementing its program, “takes very seriously the obligation to protect sensitive information,” said an email from a Peace Corps official who insisted on anonymity but gave no reason for doing so.

In some sense, some of this type of thing makes sense if you’re working in the NSA on top-secret stuff but in the Department of Education? It promotes an adversarial relationship with everyone–if someone is having a bad day you should suspect them (the Pentagon official talk about removing stress, but this wouldn’t be by a colleague)–and that means that employees will be less likely to share information or pronounce differences of opinion with their superiors. If you live in a totalitarian regime you might want this, but I would think we wouldn’t want that in a Democracy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: