Pope Plugging Leaks Is News at AP; But Not Obama's Insider Threat Program

A report today from Nicole Winfield at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, headlines the news that Pope Francis's revision and update of Vatican City laws "criminalizes leaks." Meanwhile, searches on relevant terms at the AP's national web site ("leaks"; "insider threat" "McClatchy"; all not in quotes) return either nothing, or nothing relevant. 

AP's apparent decision thus far to ignore McClatchy's latest story on the Obama administration's unprecedented "Insider Threat Program," which requires federal employees to snitch on each other for "suspicious behavior" or face serious discipline and even prosecution, is -- well, readers can pick their own adjectives after reading excerpts from McClatchy's latest item which follow the jump.


Tuesday's report by Jonathan S. Landay and Marisa Taylor follows up on their June 20 disclosures ("Obama’s crackdown views leaks as aiding enemies of U.S."), which revealed that:

... the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It ... extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide ... (and its) catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.

Now to paragraphs from the pair's latest story (bolds are mine):

Experts: Obama’s plan to predict future leakers unproven, unlikely to work

In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.

The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat 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. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.

... 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.”

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.”

... But even the government’s top scientific advisers have questioned these techniques. Those experts say that trying to predict future acts through behavioral monitoring is unproven and could result in illegal ethnic and racial profiling and privacy violations.

... 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.

... The White House, the Justice Department, the Peace Corps and the departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security and Education refused to answer questions about the program’s implementation. Instead, they issued virtually identical email statements directing inquiries to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment or didn’t respond.

... research and other programs that rely on profiling show it remains unproven, could make employees more resistant to reporting violations and might lead to spurious allegations.

The "most transparent administration ever" strikes again. (/sarc)

A Google News search on ["Associated Press" "insider threat"] (typed exactly as indicated between brackets) returned nothing indicating any AP coverage -- only items written by others who note how the AP's phone records were monitored in 2012 and items which happen to contain AP photos.

But AP's Winfield is all over what the Pope is doing to plug leaks:

POPE CRIMINALIZES LEAKS, SEX ABUSE IN FIRST LAWS

Pope Francis overhauled the laws that govern the Vatican City State on Thursday, criminalizing leaks of Vatican information and specifically listing sexual violence, prostitution and possession of child pornography as crimes against children that can be punished by up to 12 years in prison.

... One new crime stands out, though, as an obvious response to the leaks of papal documents last year that represented one of the gravest Vatican security breaches in recent times.

Paolo Gabriele, the butler for then-Pope Benedict XVI, was tried and convicted by a Vatican court of stealing Benedict's personal papers and giving them to an Italian journalist, Gianluigi Nuzzi.

... the crime of leaking Vatican information never existed before in the Vatican legal system.

The AP had no trouble using the investigative work of the New York Times in 2006 when the Old Gray Lady led the way in exposing the Bush 43 administration's SWIFT program designed to detect terror-related financial transactions. Giving that journalistic effort further exposure was apparently okay, because it embarrassed a Republicans administration and tipped off terrorists as to how to avoid having authorities detect their financial transactions. But the Internal Threat Program is occurring under a cherished Democratic president, so I guess it's hands-off -- even though the administration scoured the business, personal, and cellphone records of 100 AP reporters and editors. Can you say, "Stockholm Syndrome"?

As to whether the Obama administration's Insider Threat Program can work -- well, it seems that it would depend on your definition of "work." If the goal is to create a miserable culture of fear and intimidation, a workplace you dread visiting each day, and a place where you keep to yourself as much as possible, I suspect it's working quite well. Ah, but keeping to yourself is probably considered a form of reportable suspicious behavior, so that won't work either.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.