If our fat, bumbling, economy-crushing colossus of a central government has seemed particularly ineffectual over the past year, it’s because the federal worker bees have all been ordered to spy on each other, and it’s probably very time-consuming. McClatchy News takes a look at President Obama’s amazing Insider Threats Program, “an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for ‘high-risk persons or behaviors’ among co-workers.” And they might be looking at criminal penalties if they don’t file timely spy reports.
Obama mandated the program in an October 2011 executive order after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from a classified computer network and gave them to WikiLeaks, the anti-government secrecy group. The order covers virtually every federal department and agency, including the Peace Corps, the Department of Education and others not directly involved in national security.
Under the program, which is being implemented with little public attention, security investigations can be launched when government employees showing ???indicators of insider threat behavior??? are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. Investigations also can be triggered when ???suspicious user behavior??? is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to ???insider threat personnel.???
Could this get any creepier? Oh, yes. Yes, it could.
Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors ??? like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel ??? of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do ???harm to the United States.??? Managers of special insider threat offices will have ???regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access??? to employees??? personnel, payroll, disciplinary and ???personal contact??? files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms.
I know what you’re thinking: this sounds like “profiling,” and that’s supposed to be heinously evil, isn’t it? The same thought occurred to some of the government’s own scientific advisers, who said that “trying to predict future acts through behavioral monitoring is unproven and could result in illegal ethnic and racial profiling and privacy violations.”
And it’s not just federal employees cutting eye holes in their morning newspapers so they can spy on each other:
While the Insider Threat Program mandates that the nearly 5 million federal workers and contractors with clearances undergo training in recognizing suspicious behavior indicators, it allows individual departments and agencies to extend the requirement to their entire workforces, something the Army already has done.
Training should address ???current and potential threats in the work and personal environment??? and focus on ???the importance of detecting potential insider threats by cleared employees and reporting suspected activity to insider threat personnel and other designated officials,??? says one of the documents obtained by McClatchy.
But what if the Leak Police decide to do some leaking? Who catches them? Who watches the watchmen? Presumably they are required to spy on themselves, and submit regular reports of any suspicious activities they catch themselves indulging in, such as reading this very website. Oh, crap, you’re not a government employee, are you? Quick, click here for some innocuous government-approved infotainment, and reassure your co-workers by humming your favorite meaningless Obama campaign slogan: Yes, we can. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Forward! You didn’t build that. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your plan.
Naturally, no one in the Most Transparent Administration in History was willing to talk to McClatchy about the Insider Threat documents they obtained, beyond a ritual declaration that “civil rights, civil liberties, and privacy” would be cherished by everyone involved. Of course there was no further explanation of how those rights were respected by this insanely intrusive program. Why do you demand proof, impudent citizen? You aren’t one of those… subversive types, are you?
McClatchy puckishly notes that all this institutionalized paranoia somehow failed to prevent Edward Snowden from waltzing into a security position, robbing the intelligence community blind of data, and turning into a one-man global security threat, all while still on probation as a new hire. Intrusive and hilariously ineffective? Throw in “hideously expensive,” and you’ve got a classic Obama program.
What we’ve got here is the strange paranoia of a White House that enjoys utter, slobbering, breathlessly romantic devotion from the press… but is scared out if its mind that something damaging will leak out to them anyway. Obama seems even more bitter and resentful of the media than Richard Nixon, even though the press loves him as much as it loved JFK, and it has demonstrated its loyalty by crushing any number of damaging stories. (Two more people just got killed by the Fast and Furious guns the media steadfastly refused to discuss.) Perhaps this could be taken as a tacit admission that Obama knows how fragile his alleged popularity is, and how much it depends on the relentless efforts of his volunteer campaign auxiliaries in Big Media.
And there’s also a heavy dash of overcompensation, because no one leaks to the media more recklessly than Obama… when it makes him look good.. Congressional investigators have been struggling to get to the bottom of those White House leaks for years. There are some legitimate concerns about national security buried in the Insider Threats Program, but a lot of it seems like posturing designed to make the White House look tough on an offense it has frequently committed.
Maybe if the government wasn’t so large and out of control, it wouldn’t need to keep so many secrets from voters. That solution isn’t likely to occur to this Administration, so if you work for the government, be careful not to talk about your money problems, problems with your spouse, how much you admire plucky underdogs, or how stressed-out you’re feeling, and don’t make too many copies at the copy machine, because those are all “indicators” that might trigger your co-workers to file a report on you… and if they don’t, they could face much sterner punishment than anyone involved in the IRS abuse-of-power scandal. If you don’t work for the government, President Obama would like to remind you that it’s vitally important for you to trust it far more than he does.