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McClatchy Uncovers Obama's 'Insider Threat Program' | The Nation

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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

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McClatchy Uncovers Obama's 'Insider Threat Program'


President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

I see that John Nichols has beaten me to the punch here with a column on the infamous (and disgraceful) David Gregory vs. Glenn Greenwald battle yesterday. Much other commentary out there, such as this important Jay Rosen piece this morning and the usual swell Charles P. Pierce smackdown. David Carr of The New York Times weighs in here on “impugning the messenger.” And I covered it all yesterday as it happened over at my Pressing Issues blog, and I’m liveblogging all things Snowden again today.

So this allows me to take up a development perhaps even more significant, which (unlike the Snowden leak) is already being pretty much ignored.

McClatchy reporters routinely write some of the most important journalism coming out of Washington, DC, and abroad but because they do not work for The New York Times or The Washington Post their work generally gets too little attention. This proved tragic when they were almost alone in repeatedly raising alarms about the bogus intel and claims on Iraq’s WMD back in 2002–03.

Yesrterday, they did it again, with a major piece—with wide implications for investigative journalism—but poorly timed, breaking just as Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow and beyond. It’s by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan Landay, who have done so much stellar work in the past. Read it all. In fact, Greenwald cited it in his argument with Gregory, to show that the Snowden revelations are just part of a larger, even more troubling picture.

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I’ll post the opening below:

Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.

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.

The Obama administration is expected to hasten the program’s implementation as the government grapples with the fallout from the leaks of top secret documents by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the agency’s secret telephone data collection program. The case is only the latest in a series of what the government condemns as betrayals by “trusted insiders” who have harmed national security.

And another key section: “The program could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for ‘indicators’ that include stress, divorce and financial problems."

Assad has used chemical weapons. Or so the administration now claims. Greg Mitchell applauds McClatchey for breaking ranks and questioning the evidence.

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