The Guardian reports that approximately 100,000 U.S. government employees are under permanent surveillance and are being scrutinized for signs of “ego”, “greed”, money worries, disgruntlement or other behavioral patterns in hopes of preventing the next big official leak. Chelsea Manning, as you may remember, was a U.S. Army private sentenced under the Espionage Act to 35 years in a military prison for disclosing to WikiLeaks approximately 750,000 classified or unclassified but sensitive military and diplomatic cables. Manning says he leaked the data because he discovered the government had tortured and abused people to break them, forced its alleged enemies into years of indefinite imprisonment, had murdered American citizens and journalists without due process, and, lastly, “extraordinarily-renditioned” civilians suspected of wrongdoing to secret prisons within the CIA’s network of foreign “black sites”. A document leaked by Manning reveals President Obama set up something called the Insider Threat program to prevent whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Manning from exposing questionable actions by the government, such as the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping program. The file demonstrates that officials are using Manning’s story as a mold from which they’ve built a profile of a potential whistleblower.
Government officials list 8 psychological characteristics that agents should try to detect in employees as potential signs they might be tempted to reveal classified documents. The 8 criteria are listed as “Insider Threat motives” and include “divided loyalties”, “financial difficulties”, “ingratiation”, “ideology”, and family or personal issues. One could argue that people generally have very subjective definitions of terms like “greed” and “ideology”. The program also places employees under “continuous evaluation” for their activities both at work and off-duty. The expansion of Insider Threat is raising fears among whistleblower groups that paranoia among employees will spread and make it increasingly challenging for those who have concerns about corruption or other misconduct to raise the alarm.
Jesselyn Radack, who leads the Whistleblower and Source Protection program at ExposeFacts, describes Insider Threat as “a modern-day McCarthyism that has friends and colleagues spy on and report each other. It effectively stifles workplace free speech, dissent and is openly trying to deter whistleblowers.” The government’s whistleblower traits are very similar to the formula devised to detect spies and traitors during the Cold War. Back in the 1950s. The acronym MICE was used, which stands for “money, ideology, coercion or ego.” Analysis of the former program showed that the focus on those criteria were totally unsuccessful in detecting vulnerabilities. In The Guardian, Chelsea Manning describes what he feels are the present Insider Threat program’s consequences:
“[The program] works against innovation, creativity and the prevention of institutional corruption. Perhaps this is the real intent . . . to instill fear and project dominance throughout the intelligence community, the military and among government employees and contractors at large.”
The Obama Administration has exhibited a rabid inclination to prosecute whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning. Recently, President Obama quietly expanded a program that doesn’t require FBI agents to have any “national security” reason to input your name, email address, phone number, or other “selector” into the NSA’s giant data trove. If your name comes up in an unrelated and routine FBI investigation, agents can delve into your private information and communications. If such agents find something like illegal drug activity, they can now send this info along to local or state police for subsequent prosecution. Because the average person unknowingly commits three felonies a day, as Harvey Silvergate postulates, this hypothetically gives the government incredibly disproportionate power to prosecute virtually anyone they feel challenges the authority of government or the political status quo. In other words, our president has given the surveillance community a blank check in an effort to discourage dissent and uphold the status quo.
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