Government Considers Dissatisfaction With US Policies To Be A 'High Threat'

from the looks-like-someone's-going-to-spend-some-time-at-the-Ministry-of-Love! dept

The administration’s “Insider Threat” program was discussed here a few weeks ago. Apparently, the government has been running dangerously low on whistleblowers to prosecute and now is seeking help from its employees in identifying “threats” to the government — some of which may be no more than a cubicle away.

The national “spy on your neighbor” program (See Something, Say Something) has now been internalized by the government, which openly encourages its employees to view their co-workers with suspicion. Leaks = “aiding the enemy,” according to official documents and one can’t be too careful in this post-Snowden climate of forced transparency.

To that end, the government has introduced a couple of training modules/interactive games aimed at heightening suspicion levels in federal offices. There are two versions: one for the Dept. of Defense and one for regular “federal employees.” You score points by following the rules and outing co-workers whose behavior indicates they might up and tear the country a new one by blowing whistles.

According to the interactive brainwasher CyberAwareness Challenge, these are some of the prime indicators that a co-worker is prone to rampant acts of insider threatening.

A security training test created by a Defense Department agency warns federal workers that they should consider the hypothetical Indian-American woman a “high threat” because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and “speaks openly of unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy.”

Yes. It’s true. An inherently untrustworthy foreigner has made things worse on herself by exercising her First Amendment rights and openly having her vehicle repossessed. A good citizen loves our country’s thousands of rules and policies and pays their bills on time — no exceptions.

And who in their right, non-threatening mind would want to leave the country once, much less several times? Seriously. The hassle at the airports alone would seem to be enough to deter a non-Caucasian from making more than one trip abroad.

While this example may seem stupid at best and borderline racist at worst, a spokesman for the Pentagon defended the program’s virtues in a statement to Huffington Post.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said, “DISA was sensitive to any civil liberty concerns that might arise from any portion of the curriculum, which is why it coordinated with 26 federal agencies to ensure the maximum amount of input was received before going live.”

“When considering personnel for a position of trust that requires a security clearance, there are many potential indicators that must be considered when evaluating for insider threat concerns,” he explained. “The department takes these variables into consideration based on past examples of personnel who engaged in spying or treasonous acts.”

Several million people across the federal government have taken the training since it was released, Pickart said, and there has been only one complaint…

Anyone familiar with government work knows that increasing the number of agencies involved has very little bearing on overall quality of output. In fact, it’s more frequently noted that the quality is inversely proportionate to the number of bureaucrats involved.

And as for there being only one complaint? Well, holy shit, what did you expect? The program itself makes the none-too-subtle point that complaining about the government is a great way to end up with the word “Snowden” taped surreptitiously to your back by your newly trained co-workers.

Now, if you’re truly curious, you can attempt to play the interactive CyberAwareness Challenge. Chrome users are somewhat discouraged from making the attempt. My personal experience boiled down to a lot of load time broken up by occasional “challenges” and questions that had all the depth and nuance of a Dora the Explorer episode.

The challenge level may go up the further you proceed in the game, but I can’t offer any insight on that. The load times are so long, it’s tough to believe you’ll have a chance to round up any “insider threats” before they’ve boarded the next plane to Moscow. Or retired.

All hyperbole aside, this training program won’t do much to find insider threats, who are likely not nearly as easy to identify as the rather spurious list of “indicators” would have federal employees believe. And the last thing the government should be doing is incubating the idea that exposing government wrongdoing is only a step or two removed from actual terrorism. Attempting to weed out “dissent” by turning government employees against each other is only going to foster more of the behavior these agencies are trying to stamp out.

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Comments on “Government Considers Dissatisfaction With US Policies To Be A 'High Threat'”

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PRMan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Didn’t you notice in the last election that even when Ron Paul came in a very close second in a debate (above Rick Perry and Mitt Romney), the media didn’t even mention him?

You’ll never hear about change even if it’s out there because the media is part of the machine.

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Actual have money problem does probably make a person a higher risk as they are more likely to take money for payment

Which could be better addressed by making financial advice services available to employees.

and if they are disenfranchised with politicly it makes then less likely to care about there commitment to keep stuff that should stay secret, secret.

I presume you meant “disenchanted”.

Being disenchanted probably means you think more about politics than the uncritical person – and therefore you probably have a better idea about what really needs to be secret and what doesn’t

Starke (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, although it sounds racist, this specific profile does have a few warning signs.

Basically, they’re spending a lot of money on international travel, while not having enough to pay the bills…

Thing is, this is getting cross threaded with the whole ideology element. Past experience is, you need one OR the other to turn someone, not both. And, when I say “turn”, I really mean a coordinated intelligence agency, not, you know, “terrerusts!”

Of course, the whole thing is made worse by the fact that we know, in this day and age, all bank seizures of property are legal, right guys?

Starke (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Honestly, looking back at intelligence operations in the Cold War, and for that matter, counterintelligence operations? Yeah, some of the dumbest stuff actually worked, the more sophisticated stuff had a nasty habit of fouling up.

Get a housekeeper in the Soviet embassy to throw out classified documents, and fish them out of the trash? Yeah, that worked for years.

Cultivate a spy network in East Berlin? No dice.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

That’s the kind of comment I can never tell whether it’s serious or not, but sadly some people really are too stupid to tell the difference. e.g.

They also don’t understand that “Muslim” isn’t a race or that non-religious/Christian people of Arabic descent also exist.

Anyone who thinks they can tell if someone is a terrorist or a Muslim (and no, those are not synonyms) just by looking at them is a complete idiot.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re: Version 2

It is not really McCarthyism. McCarthyism is a witch hunt where they make accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. This is more like Stasi behavior. Is Stazism a word? If not it should be …

artp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Version 2

The first two lines in the Wikipedia entry say:

McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means “the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism.

There seem to be some similarities.

Anonymous Coward says:

When considering personnel for a position of trust that requires a security clearance…

…you might as well just use a dartboard. Only ignorant, stupid, vacuous, worthless, utterly idiotic simians think that security clearances have the slightest value. They might as well be printed on toilet paper, because they’re exclusively for assholes.

Anonymous Coward says:

can this actually be for real? grown men coming out with this sort of crap! it’s more like what kids do! there has to be so much paranoia, so much insecurity in the top echelon of the US government to have to come out with something like this, it makes me scared to think of how far things are going to be taken before something snaps and shit really hits fan! for people in the positions that these hold to be so afraid of what could happen that they want to screen every person who could be of foreign birth, why let them settle in the USA to start with?what is more worrying is the countries they are pushing these same ideas and fears to! are there actually any sane people in charge or are they all completely consumed with hysteria?

Chris says:

Money Issues

Money issues have long been considered a risk issue for those with a security clearance. Bouncing checks (as long as one isn’t a member of Congress, and note the plural) was one of the fastest ways to get one’s clearance revoked when I had mine. Financial worries and disillusionment are indeed factors that should be noted with regards to security clearances (they don’t, however, make one a “threat”). Travelling to meet your family semi-annually being seen as a threat factor is, IMO, ridiculous.

WRT Richard, when I was in the USAF 2 decades ago, access to simple financial advice services were available. Making them available does not mean one will necessarily use it.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

The problem is that there are thousands of programs many of which are likely illegal, violate the constitution, or both. The Snowden leaks are probably just the tip of the iceberg.

What the government is trying to do here is twofold. Create a sense of fear among federal workers that they are being watched, and on the off chance, prevent a person from blowing the whistle on something illegal or unconstitutional.

Both of which are extremely stupid. This sort of work environment will create stressors for people, and will more than likely increase the number of people going public on illegal or unconstitutional government actions.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Well, I’m out. If I were in the US, I’d be a clear threat. My brother is in Brussels and I’m planning on visiting him soon. I’ve spoken openly of discontent with US government policies both off and online. I also do a good job at work, very good but not fantastic (couldn’t be bothered).
Someone wanna call Oburmur’s thugs? Can’t be bothered to do it myself. I clearly should be locked up without a trial.

Michael (profile) says:

there has been only one complaint

They have since asked the complainer (who did so anonymously, but the NSA knew who it was anyway) a series of questions in the comfort of a facility on an island known for great weather and fine cigars.

During this interview, the complainer retracted their complaint and admitted to terrorist activities and kidnapping the Lindburgh baby.

So, we re convinced that everyone feels the program is appropriate.

Edward Teach says:

Re: Only one complaint

My thought to the “only one complainer” note was “Bullshit”.

The complainers went to their various supervisors and complained vigorously, and perhaps humorously. For example, in the late 80s, at an aerospace company, I went to my supervisor and asked to take my drug test at my desk, because I was very busy. In the staff meeting where they announced “random” “drug” “tests”, I asked how big the bottle was, noting that I had a very large bladder.

That is, a lot/all of complaints just don’t get past first level managers, no matter how biting the criticism is. Complaints certainly don’t get past the department level manager, who will claim to have forwarded them “up the ladder”, when in fact, the complaint paperwork went in the wastebasket.

Anonymous Coward says:


Thinking back on the news, the leakers most prominently in the public mind have all been (East)Indian broke travellers – Snowden, Manning, Cheney and his buddy Skipper who leaked a CIA agent’s identity, Ellsberg… Do we see a pattern as to what ethnicity/gender should be watched? Add in all the cold-war spies (supposedly Ethel Rosenberg was just a stooge for her husband who called the shots) and pretty much all of them are white, male… Turbans are sorely under-represented, as are women.

Joseph Ratliff (profile) says:

We immediately classify people based on rather stupid criteria, and if you read the slide shared in this article carefully, you’ll notice the “speaks openly about unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy” as one of the criteria.

What is our world, and our country coming to? This type of approach immediately does 2 things that I’m concerned about…

1. It creates fear, especially the kind for “speaking out” in our supposedly free country.

2. This type of “training” immediately boxes people into categories, so BEFORE you meet a person, you’ve immediately classified them (within the context of employment at this Government agency).

You don’t even get to know a person before they now must prove to you they don’t fit this “box”.

This. Is. Sad.

So because she has financial difficulties, travels to India, and speaks her mind… she is high risk.


Eponymous Coward says:

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custode?

Now we know, the watchmen are watched over by their fellow watchmen with steely-eyed paranoia…

I can’t wait for this program to be updated in the near future; also making one a threat risk if they haven’t reported a few colleagues in the last year or so under said program. This dog will forever chase it’s wagging tail.

Anonymous Coward says:

“DISA was sensitive to any civil liberty concerns that might arise from any portion of the curriculum, which is why it coordinated with 26 federal agencies to ensure the maximum amount of input was received before going live.”

I think this is supposed to read

“DISA was sensitive to any civil liberty concerns that might arise from any portion of the curriculum, which is why it coordinated with 26 federal agencies to ensure the maximum amount of input was received and ignored before going live.”

steve says:

Content is everything

This appears to be a training system put in place to help identify potential security leaks. So, if you have an employee who can travel out of the country quickly and easily; and they also speak openly at the DoD about their political beliefs then they probably should at least be shown to HR. This is more a company doing damage control and trying to put a cap on the constant leakage than it is the government profiling everyday citizens.

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