FOIA Documents Show Government's Whistleblower-Punishing 'Insider Threat' Program Modeled On Chelsea Manning

from the threatened-by-accountability dept

Chelsea Manning has obtained her “Insider Threat” report from the US government through a FOIA request. It’s published in full at The Guardian and it provides additional insight into this administration’s war on whistleblowers. Set up in the wake of Manning’s Wikileaks document dump, the “Insider Threat” program seeks to weed out future Mannings and Snowdens — both of whom turned over documents to journalists and activists, rather than the nation’s enemies. Manning, in an accompanying editorial, calls it a “blank check for surveillance.” And it is.

The list of possible indicators is so broad as to cover nearly the entirety of the government’s workforce — not just those with security clearances.

(U)Insider Threat Motives

Greed or financial difficulties
Disgruntled or wants revenge
Divided loyalties
Vulnerable to blackmail
Family/personal issues

To be seen as a threat by the government, one only needs to experience the rigors of everyday life, like “financial difficulties” or “family issues.” If a person’s viewpoint is not totally aligned with the agency they work for, the person may be viewed as holding a hostile “ideology” and will likely be “disgruntled.”

The document also has a list of indicators related to job functions. Any straying from the confines of the position could be viewed as threatening.

(U) Behavior Indicators

Interest in matters outside their scope of responsibilities.
lnappropriately seeks to obtain classified information on subjects not related to their work.
Downloads/transfers information without proper authorization or need via media devices or email.
Deliberate and unnecessarily copies of documents or media.
Works unusual times outside normal duty hours.
Unexplained affluences.
Engaged in suspicious personal contacts.
Unreported foreign contacts.
Overwhelmed by life crises and/or career disappointments.
Compulsive and destructive behavior.

The following page of the report shows this part of the Insider Threat program is specifically based on Chelsea Manning, as every single one of these items is listed under “PVT. Manning’s Behavior Indicators.” That includes the mysterious “Unexplained affluences,” which continues to go unexplained in the detailing of Manning’s behavior. (I would assume this refers to outward signs of wealth not supported by pay grade, but the report just tosses the ungainly wording into the list without specifying what it is, how it’s determined, or how it applies to Manning.)

Somewhat comically, Manning’s assigned shift is referred to as being “outside normal duty hours.”

Works unusual times outside normal duty hours.

PVT Manning utilized his 12 hour shift from late evening (~7pm) until the morning (~7am) to conduct his illegal activity.

As The Guardian points out, documents obtained by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists show over 100,000 government employees have already been targeted for insider threat surveillance. The program calls it “continuous evaluation,” which is the government’s innocuous terminology for surveillance of all activities, including those outside of work, like financial transactions, political affiliations and activism.

In total, the report does almost nothing to allay fears that the Insider Threat program will be used to hunt down whistleblowers. Manning’s report indicates the government feels advocates for transparency (“promoted the ideology that all information should be public“) and people who don’t fit into binary gender confines (“[Manning] struggled with his self-image as a man when he wanted to be openly accepted as a female“) should be subjected to pervasive surveillance by their own government.

The bottom line is that even if an employee is otherwise satisfied with their government employment, they still need to “fit in” with fellow employees, live a life mostly free of financial or personal stress, advocate only for their employer’s official/unofficial positions and hopefully identify as straight male/female. Anything outside of these confines is asking for trouble. Whistleblowers don’t even stand a chance.

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Comments on “FOIA Documents Show Government's Whistleblower-Punishing 'Insider Threat' Program Modeled On Chelsea Manning”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Back in your appointed slot cog


Have an opinion that differs from that of your superiors? That’s a red-flag.


Have the audacity to think that you’re an actual person with your own thoughts? That’s a red-flag.

Vulnerable to blackmail

Do anything that might be illegal or even just embarrassing(otherwise known as ‘have a pulse’)? That’s a red-flag.

Interest in matters outside their scope of responsibilities.

Have a working brain and interest in anything beyond the immediate duties placed before you? That’s a red flag.

Works unusual times outside normal duty hours.

Don’t get all your work done on time without fail and have to work overtime, or have a sleep schedule that means you prefer to work different hours? That’s a red flag.

Unreported foreign contacts.

Use the internet for pretty much any social activity without reporting every possible person to your superiors? Oh you better believe that’s a red flag.

With indicators this vague the only surprising thing is that they’re ‘only’ targeting 100,000 people for surveillance, they could easily find something to justify watching pretty much any and all government employees if they cared to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Given the list of threat motives, it would be harder to find someone without a motive than someone with one. The categories are so ill defined as to include rather than exclude.

The behaviors are broad enough that most folks can be tucked into at least one of them. I don’t work for the government, have no access to classified info. But if I did, having an interest in the popular subject of space photography that the Hubble Telescope makes and is released by NASA would qualify me for matters outside my area of responsibility.

It is evident by the procedures I’ve seen just covered here a TechDirt, that some enterprising Attorney General or Prosecuting Attorney most likely could and given time probably will use something similar to bring a case against a government worker.

Ya, I think it has reached the point to be that bad. There is no longer the need to apply common sense to justice it seems.

Anonymous Coward says:

Any USA newspaper carrying this story?
Oh wait, that’d likely be a threat.

This is a joke. Whistleblowers are hero’s. They released it because no one internally was interested / condoned whatever was going on. They vetted harmful information. They sacrificed their lifestyle. Cheney has done worse, without any accountability.

I’d like to hear candidates thoughts on this, although I can guess at most of them.

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