The CIA Says Many Of Its Applicants Have Ties To Terrorist Organizations -- And That's Just The Ones The Vetting Process Catches

from the look!-an-actual-'insider-threat!'-I'll-get-my-camera! dept

Update: We've adjusted this post after realizing that the initial points were based on a misread. It's not 20% of all applicants, but rather 20% of a subset that were flagged. Apologies for any confusion.

Among the many things exposed by the leak of the intelligence agencies' "black budget" was this interesting factoid.
The CIA found that among a subset of job seekers whose backgrounds raised questions, roughly one out of every five had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections,” according to the document, which was provided to The Washington Post by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

The groups cited most often were Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda and its affiliates, but the nature of the connections was not described in the document.
The NSA has recently announced its plan to investigate its contractors and perhaps cut loose 90% of its sysadmins as a result of one sysadmin walking out the door with thousands of highly classified documents. The government as a whole is also tackling its "insider threats," although its methods and definitions leave a lot to be desired, considering it seems to be more targeted at rooting out whistleblowers than actual threats.

But what's really interesting about this statement from the CIA is not so much how many applicants with ties to terrorists are looking for intelligence work. Every intelligence agency will have its fair share of spies and moles angling for a spot on the inside. No, the more interesting question would be: how many are already working for the CIA?

As we covered back in July, the process for vetting intelligence agency employees is severely broken, with contractors being caught interviewing dead people and, in the case of one enthusiastic but seriously useless employee, falsifying one out of three background checks -- 1,600 in total over a three-year period.

If the vetting process has serious (and systemic) problems, it's very likely that a few potential terrorists have already made their way inside. If so, then the insider threat "problem" is now an actual problem, and while the government instructs its employees to pursue people who just don't seem to be "team players," employees who could do real damage to the agencies -- and know how to keep their heads down -- remain free from scrutiny.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 8:52am

    Rooting Root

    Just how does one root out root?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:03am

    Who was behind the "Arab Spring"?

    Those well-organized well-funded well-armed groups were not popular uprisings against dictators, but solely the product of generous payoffs to mercenaries in the ongoing wars of empire.

    And it's almost certain that the Benghazi embassy attack revolves around the CIA running arms (anti-aircraft missles) from the stockpiles captured in Libya to Syria in preparation for invasion.

    So your view that the CIA tries to keep "terrorists" out is quite mistaken: they're just putting this out now to cover up the fact that CIA actively recruits and employs actual terrorists. -- Another limited hangout.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:04am

    Title is somewhat misleading. 20% of applicants "whose backgrounds raised questions", not 20% of all applicants.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:07am

    Re: Rooting Root

    >>> Just how does one root out root?

    Don't know what your point was, but it's a simple question that any Linux novice can answer:

    Be root. Then type: rm *

    [Windows lusers will fail to get this.]

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:12am

    Re: Re: Rooting Root

    Actually:

    rm -rf /

    as

    rm *

    merely removes the files in the current working directory, whereas the recursive invocation applied on the root directory of the system does considerably more damage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:18am

    “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections,”

    Does the Washington post qualify as a "hostile intelligence connection", or is the CIA referring to the American people in general?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:27am

    Re: Rooting Root

    Not sure, but I think it requires a su login.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    WEC, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:27am

    What spy or mole wouldn't be a team player?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:31am

    This is a huge shock!

    The kinds of people that would have connections to terrorist organizations would be interested in working for an organization that is spying on people around the world, hiding their activities from the people that are supposed to be providing oversight, lying to the governing body they work for, and managing to avoid any penalties for doing so.

    Perhaps the thing we should be worried about is how we have made working for this particular agency so appealing to people that tend to be unscrupulous.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:36am

    Re:

    the remaining 80% will become domestic spying terrorists. . .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:42am

    That's nothing. 100% of the CIA's leadership has ties to war criminals.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:44am

    "No CIA, you are the terrorists."

    And then CIA was a zombie.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    Carl "Bear" Bussjaeger (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:44am

    What constitutes a "terrorist tie"? If they're using the NSA "3 hops" definition, that's most of America.

    Strictly speaking, according to that statement, it isn't 20% of applicants with terrorist ties. It's 20% of applicants who failed the background check. Without know what percentage failed checks, we don't know the overall percentage.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 9:47am

    The NSA has recently announced its plan to investigate its contractors and perhaps cut loose 90% of its sysadmins as a result of one sysadmin walking out the door with thousands of highly classified documents.

    I still love this plan.

    Pssst....Hey!...you...over there...yeah, you...the one with all of this classified information at your fingertips...you are about to be given your walking papers...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    Yes, we've adjusted the title. Sorry.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    icon
    Ben S (profile), Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re:

    The point being made is 20% of applicants, as a whole, is most likely inaccurate. For example, if out of all the applicants they interview, only 20% raise flags, and 20% of those have the terrorist ties, you're sitting at 4% of all applicants having terrorist ties is all, not the 20% as per the title.

    Also worth noting, since they don't specify what counts as a terrorist tie, that number might also be inaccurate. Imagine that NSA feels a chance encounter while shopping at a store with some one the NSA suspects counts as a "tie", or your mother's ex-husband's second cousin twice removed is suspected as a terrorist. Once again, the tie is not one that you can really see as realistic. The numbers here just aren't all that informative. Far more worrying is the history of the whole interviewing process that was described, including "contractors being caught interviewing dead people" and falsifying background checks.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:10am

    Re:

    Derp. Again...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:11am

    I'm not sure I understand the problem. Is it not part of the job description in the CIA to be actively developing these ties?

    That's what spy agencies do, right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:13am

    The CIA found that among a subset of job seekers whose backgrounds raised questions, roughly one out of every five had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections,”

    What subset of these was hired?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    W.Quixote, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 10:19am

    I'd be curious to know how "and/or hostile intelligence connections" is defined. Liking Facebook pages that disagree with government positions?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2013 @ 11:23am

    Considering how many members of Congress consider Planned Parenthood a terrorist agency, I'm not really going to put very much stock in this number right yet...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    BernardoVerda (profile), Sep 4th, 2013 @ 7:23pm

    Re: Who was behind the "Arab Spring"?

    Him again?!?!

    Has this fool ever said anything sensible, on any topic whatsoever?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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