McClatchyDC: Obama’s Crackdown Views Leaks as Aiding Enemies of US
This article provides some details of an Obama administration initiative launched in October 2011 – the "Insider Threat Program" – that seeks to, across most government agencies, silence whistleblowers before they act by forcing coworkers to monitor each other for "indicators" that they may go outside the agency. Such a program is a direct threat to federal whistleblowers and government accountability.
Insider Threat Programs are being developed inside the Department of Education, Social Security Administration and even the Peace Corps, among others.
Key Quote: 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.
“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.
There are numerous cases, however, of government workers who say they’ve been forced to go public because they’ve suffered retaliation after trying to complain about waste, fraud and abuse through internal channels or to Congress. Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA official, was indicted in 2010 under the Espionage Act after he disclosed millions of dollars in waste to a journalist. He’d tried for years to alert his superiors and Congress. The administration eventually dropped the charges against him.
The Guardian: Revealed – The Top Secret Rules That Allow the NSA To Use US Data Without a Warrant
This Guardian article reveals how top-secret documents submitted to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts (FISA courts) allow the NSA to “make use of information ‘inadvertently’ collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.” The new documents reveal the power of NSA analysts who, when unsure of an American’s location or citizenship may be “presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person” which, in order to determine, may require looking at the “content of messages, or listen[ing] to phone calls, to establish if this is indeed the case.”
Key Quote: The top secret documents published today detail the circumstances in which data collected on US persons under the foreign intelligence authority must be destroyed, extensive steps analysts must take to try to check targets are outside the US, and reveals how US call records are used to help remove US citizens and residents from data collection.
However, alongside those provisions, the Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:
• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;
• Retain and make use of "inadvertently acquired" domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;
• Preserve "foreign intelligence information" contained within attorney-client communications;
• Access the content of communications gathered from "U.S. based machine[s]" or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.
The broad scope of the court orders, and the nature of the procedures set out in the documents, appear to clash with assurances from President Obama and senior intelligence officials that the NSA could not access Americans' call or email information without warrants.
In the wake of Edward Snowden's disclosure, more attention is being paid to the massive expansion of Silicon Valley companies' connections to the national security sector. As this article points out, Facebook’s chief of security left the social media company in 2010 for a job at the NSA. The tactics between the two organizations are comparable, the primary difference being that what Silicon Valley does to make money, the NSA does for intelligence.
The article also reveals a program by Skype, called Project Chess, employed to “explore the legal and technical issues in making Skype calls readily available to intelligence agencies.” All signs say the company, which joined PRISM in late 2011, developed the technology to wiretap calls, as Microsoft executives now in charge of Skype are “no longer willing to affirm statements … that Skype calls could not be wiretapped.”
In related news, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed his concern over the government exploitation of the Internet, saying he feels some guilt, and sharing his support for Snowden.
Following up Monday’s USA Today story, which featured three GAP clients and NSA whistleblowers, this article outlines the clearest supporting arguments for Snowden’s disclosure from those who have walked in his footsteps. Finally, it is being alleged that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is attempting to help Snowden seek asylum in Iceland. The country’s Prime Minister, however, insists that Snowden be physically present to make his request.
Ban the Criminalization of Whistleblowers!
GAP has partnered with MoveOn.org and Brave New Foundation (producers of the film “War on Whistleblowers”) to demand that Congress pass legislation banning retaliatory criminal investigations and prosecutions against whistleblowers. Sign the petition here!
Human Rights Watch Speaks Up For Whistleblowers As Public Learns More About NSA Spying
GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack applauds international humanitarian organization Human Rights Watch for their statement urging enhanced legislation for the protection of national security sector whistleblowers.
Whistleblowers in the national security framework in the US currently enjoy extremely limited freedom when it comes to protections, a serious problem receiving much-needed attention because of the country’s current debate over the NSA.
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.