Sunday, June 23, 2013

The McClatchy Report -- "Insider Threat"

[Note: Snowden is on the run, said to be in Moscow somewhere, possibly at the airport, possibly at the Venezuelan embassy, possibly elsewhere. The saga, they say, will continue tomorrow when he is scheduled to depart Moscow for another interim destination, possibly Havana, where they say he will then depart for his ultimate destination, possibly Caracas or Quito. There is no sign Iceland is prepared to grant asylum, but you never know in Spy Stories like this. UPDATED: Snowden, from an airport hotel room in Moscow, has requested asylum in Ecuador; Ecuadorian ambassador has been to airport; John Brennan is flying to Moscow. Much bluster and bombast from politicians. Greenwald engaging in numerous pissing contests with media. Quite a day.]

Yes. Well.

McClatchy is out with a story called "Obama's Crackdown Views Leaks as Aiding Enemies of the US" referring to the "Insider Threat" program that is essentially implemented across the entire Federal Service.


As some of my readers know, I was a Federal employee for more than a decade and was exposed to quite a lot of the Federal attitude toward workforce and the public.

One of the things that was most surprising to me about the Manning Thing was that the DoD and State apparently did not do anything about the breaches of security for almost six months. This was very strange to me. Whenever there was a security breach in my agency (and they were rare), protocols were changed within 24 hours and access to sensitive information was severely restricted in less than that. Nothing like that is said to have happened in connection with SIPRNet security and access, and it seemed to me that the lack of security response was a key to understanding that the Manning Thing was not quite what it appeared to be. I interpreted the reluctance to tighten security in that case to be a deliberate effort to entrap more would-be whistle blowers. A variation of the classic honey pot.

I don't know whether there have been any changes of protocol or tightening of security as a result of the Snowden revelations, but I haven't heard of any. In this case, since the breach was apparently not within the government but occurred among the vast contractor community which both serves and directs the surveillance state, it's hard to say what Booz Allen's response would be. They were, after all, quite slow in completing the paperwork for Snowden's dismissal.

Now McClatchy has reported on a much more comprehensive program of leak staunching within the Federal Government that would seem to be complimentary to any other action the government might take to limit or discourage whistle blowing and leaks and yet, given the fact that it depends on Federal employees essentially spying on and ratting out one another (and themselves!) in some ways it operates as a primary leak staunching effort. It's also quite chilling to any independent thought whatever within the ranks.

During my time with the government (1997-2009) I was aware that employees were surveilled and audited routinely and that their actions could be subject to discipline -- which was sometimes unwarranted. Some employees seemed to enjoy ratting out others. And I witnessed changes in the way the Federal workforce was regarded by supervisors and management. More and more emphasis was put on loyalty as we went from the Clinton to the Bush and then to the Obama administrations, until, by the time I left in 2009, it seemed that loyalty had taken the place of just about any other consideration.

But loyalty to what, exactly? To our oaths of office? Hardly. That was more or less taken for granted. No, a strenuous hierarchy of loyalties seemed to be instituted, which required personal loyalty to one's immediate supervisor and so on up the chain, until one reached the White House.

Reading the story about the Insider Threat program, though, I get the impression that the situation has... erm... evolved. The idea that all employees must be constantly vigilant and on the lookout for colleagues who don't quite fit the mold or are facing difficulties in life, and should even be reporting themselves, strikes me as completely absurd. And yet, I can see how it has come about from paranoia over leaks, and from something else that gets very little attention.

During the Bush/Cheney administration particularly, the entire Federal service was seeded with Bush/Cheney loyalists. These weren't necessarily political appointees. Many were civil service hires. Most of them are still there.

I dealt with some of the Bush administration political appointees, and I was surprised to find that many of them did not seem to be party hacks at all. Some were even competent. On the other hand, we were all well aware that as political appointees, they had been vetted first and foremost for loyalty to the Busheviks.

And to me the really chilling aspect of the report of the Insider Threat program is the implication that any internal deviance or resistance -- let alone leaking -- is a threat that must be suppressed; total loyalty must be enforced.

But to what and whom? My own sense is that the Internal Threat program is intended to enforce loyalty and suppress resistance to the neo-liberal/corporatist ideology that has become the standard throughout elected government. It's not so much a matter of being loyal to the Busheviks, it is more a matter of being a true believer in a neo-liberal/neo-conservative ideology and party line.

I believe it was called "Gleichschaltung" in the original German.

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