Obama’s “insider threat” program sends chill across government

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McClatchy reporters Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay provide a startling update on President Obama’s Insider Threat Program in the article, “Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S.”  President Obama announced the program in an October 7, 2011 executive order.

There is established an interagency Insider Threat Task Force that shall develop a Government-wide program (insider threat program) for deterring, detecting, and mitigating insider threats, including the safeguarding of classified information from exploitation, compromise, or other unauthorized disclosure, taking into account risk levels, as well as the distinct needs, missions, and systems of individual agencies. This program shall include development of policies, objectives, and priorities for establishing and integrating security, counterintelligence, user audits and monitoring, and other safeguarding capabilities and practices within agencies.

The impacts go beyond intelligence agencies and classified information. On Democracy Now!, Landay said that agencies and departments “are not only going after leaks of classified information but leaks…unauthorized leaks…of any information at all . That appears to violate the intent of the President’s executive order, which states:

The entities created and the activities directed by this order shall not seek to deter, detect, or mitigate disclosures of information by Government employees or contractors that are lawful under and protected by the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act of 1998, Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, Inspector General Act of 1978, or similar statutes, regulations, or policies.

Government agencies like the Department of Agriculture have long histories of labeling as “traitors” employees who disclose any kind of agency wrongdoing.  With that in mind, USDA’s online tutorial,  “Treason 101,” is especially disturbing.

In the current environment, anyone who considers contacting a reporter should use great caution and make certain the reporter is handling their information securely. Landay said he began taking “extreme precautions about protecting my sources before the Edward Snowden case because it became quite obvious to me several years ago that there was a chance…because of all the electronics we use…there was a chance that  my own cellphone could be used to track down who my sources were.”