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BLOG: An EFF sticker on your laptop is an Insider Threat warning sign?

Darlene Storm | June 25, 2013
In light of recent leaks about NSA's PRISM, it seems dubious that government domestic surveillance could still be labeled as "going dark."

Apparently sick to death of word games, Congressman Mo Brooks hasintroduced a bill that would outlaw any fed pleading the Fifth. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution protects witnesses from being forced to give testimony that incriminate themselves, but the legislation would change the word games to answer me or you're fired! Brooks told Government Executivethat no federal employee should be allowed to plead the Fifth; his bill proposes to fire any federally appointed official who "refuses to answer questions before a Congressional hearing or lies before a congressional hearing. This legislation is constitutional and necessary to enable Congress to provide proper oversight for the American people."

Long before NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the Obama administration launched the Insider Threat Program. After obtaining government documents about the program, McClatchy wrote that the Insider Threat Program "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." In fact, the program "requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions." The Defense Department strategy dated June 2012 states, "Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States."

But it's not only about leaking; it's about identifying threats before they can leak. For example, the Department of Education "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'." Meanwhile, "an online tutorial titled 'Treason 101' teaches Department of Agriculture and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration employees to recognize the psychological profile of spies."

Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer who specializes in national security law, said of the Insider Threat Program, "It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) started implementing, 'Hey, let's get people to snitch on their friends.' The only thing they haven't done here is reward it. I'm waiting for the time when you turn in a friend and you get a $50 reward."

"Protecting democracy is killing it," wrote the ACLU's Privacy SOS. "Who is the enemy the Obama administration says Snowden is aiding? It's hard to arrive at any other conclusion but this: the enemy is us."


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