CIA Snags Confidential Whistleblower Communications Sent To Congress

from the protection-in-name-only dept

The government seems unable (and unwilling) to differentiate between whistleblowers and "insider threats." "Dissatisfaction with US policies" would seem to be a trait inherent to whistleblowers, but that's right up there at the top of the list of warning signs for insider threats. The FBI claimed it had this whistleblower/threat problem sorted out, abelit in the worst way possible: requiring whistleblowers to "register" in order to avoid being caught in the "insider threat" dragnet. But no one can get any details out of the agency as to how "registering" whistleblowers encourages whistleblowing, much less how the FBI handles these registered whistleblowers. When asked, agency officials simply walked away from the conversation.

The CIA is no better, apparently. McClatchy DC reports that the agency intercepted protected whistleblower communications.

The CIA obtained a confidential email to Congress about alleged whistleblower retaliation related to the Senate’s classified report on the agency’s harsh interrogation program, triggering fears that the CIA has been intercepting the communications of officials who handle whistleblower cases.

The CIA got hold of the legally protected email and other unspecified communications between whistleblower officials and lawmakers this spring, people familiar with the matter told McClatchy. It’s unclear how the agency obtained the material.
The agency obviously has ways to dig into protected emails from other government agencies, even if it can't seem to navigate its own internal email system. This news is troublesome enough, but the timeframe of the interception makes it worse. According to McClatchy, this was obtained during the CIA's unauthorized "investigation" of Senate staffers over documents related to the (still unreleased) "Torture Report."

So, while the CIA was digging through the Senate's computers, it was also taking a look at whistleblower-related correspondence.
Somehow, according to these people, [CIA Inspector General David] Buckley obtained the email, which was written by Daniel Meyer, the intelligence community’s top official for whistleblower cases, to the office of Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, a leading whistleblower-protection advocate. The Senate Intelligence Committee also learned of the matter, said the knowledgeable people.

After obtaining the email, Buckley approached Meyer’s boss, I. Charles McCullough III, the inspector general for the 17-agency U.S. intelligence community, in what may have constituted a violation of the confidentiality of the whistleblowing process, they said.
This indicates the proper channels for whistleblowing are inherently (and quite possibly, purposefully) leaky. There's no true protection here, not when the agency being called out can access supposedly protected communications. Kevin Gosztola at Firedoglake says this is a side effect of the "Insider Threat" program's reach.
[T]he interception probably occurred because it was caught by the “Insider Threat” program. The program was adopted throughout government in the aftermath of military whistleblower Chelsea Manning’s disclosures of hundreds of thousands of previously classified documents to WikiLeaks.

McClatchy has exposed the “Insider Threat” program as a system that is sweeping in its capabilities. Any “unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material,” can be targeted. It encourages federal employees and contractor to be suspicious of each other and watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors.” Failure to report on suspicious activity could result in penalties. Plus, the program equates leaks to the media with espionage.

The program keeps profiles of “Disgruntled Employees” and “Insider Threats.” What is there to stop officials from using these profiles to target whistleblowers?
Most whistleblowers are "disgruntled" employees. No one blows the whistle because they're happy with their employer's activities. Intelligence agencies, in particular, are primed for overreaction after Edward Snowden's leaks. Gosztola quotes James Clapper's plans for maintaining near constant surveillance of those granted security clearances.
“What we need is — and this is, I think, pretty much recognized — is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they’re cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job to see if there is a potential clearance issue.”
The NSA and CIA see whistleblowers as "threats," no matter if they fit the government's lofty ideal or not. When a CIA official snags protected whistleblower communications, he's simply protecting the agency's operational security, assets, etc. -- whatever justification fits.

Clapper talks a good game about protecting true whistleblowers (i.e., not Snowden, Thomas Drake, etc.), a definition that really shouldn't be left to the Director of National Intelligence to decide -- not with his track record. "True" whistleblower cases would be provided confidentiality safeguards, according to Clapper, although his statements don't specify how these would avoid the dragnet cast over those with security clearances. In this case, the CIA's protections -- whatever they were -- completely failed.
The interception of Meyer’s email would also fall into the category of “such cases” [protected confidential whistleblowers] and apparently the safeguards do not work because the person alleging retaliation was exposed to further retaliation from CIA leadership.
The more defenders of the intelligence community claim there are "proper channels" for whistleblowing while condemning the actions of Snowden and Manning, the more evidence emerges that the proper channels are completely useless. Given this, walking out the door with a hard drive full of documents seems like the sane plan.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    AricTheRed (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Hey!

    Isn't this evidence the the CIA is engaged in domestic spying? Again?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Hey!

    Does this actually surprise anyone?

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    David, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:24pm

    You don't get it

    The more defenders of the intelligence community claim there are "proper channels" for whistleblowing while condemning the actions of Snowden and Manning, the more evidence emerges that the proper channels are completely useless.

    Saying that the proper channels are useless for whistleblowing makes about as much sense as saying that rat poison is useless as rodent food.

     

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

  4.  
    identicon
    PRMan, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:25pm

    Somebody should ask Clapper for an example...

    Somebody should ask Clapper for an example of a true whistleblower that he has handled that way during his career. Since I'm certain there isn't one, it will just reinforce yet again that he's full of it.

     

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

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Yes, even US Senators are spied on by American intelligence agencies. That's wonderful.

     

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

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:41pm

    Clapper's definition of a "true whistleblower" is a white buffalo and the protections for them appear to be merely fairy dust.

     

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

  7.  
    identicon
    alan turing, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:42pm

    What we have here is a situation screaming for Turtles all the way down. Watchers watching the watchers, watchers watching the watchers that watch the watchers. etc., etc.,et.al.

    Watchers, every last man, jack of them.

     

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

  8.  
    identicon
    Baron von Robber, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 12:45pm

    The new systems are provided as such that whistle blowers can at any time, to report on the wrong doings of government policies........so long as they don't actually use the new systems.

     

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

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Dear America!

    We keep voting these guys in.

    Sure we didn't vote in particular clowns such as Clapper, but we voted in the idiots that installed the clowns.

    When a dog shits on the carpet... its the Master's responsibility... except in American politics... where no one is held accountable.

     

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

  10.  
    icon
    art guerrilla (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 1:04pm

    Re:

    most kongresskritters harbor dreams of becoming the spy-er instead of the spy-ee... (bwa ha Ha HA HAAAaaaa *PoWeR!*)

    ANY and ALL secret institutions WILL become corrupted, end of story...

    everything is privatized or secret-ized, and/or the crimes against the people and against the state have become legalized: legalized bribery, legalized influence peddling, legalized propaganda, legalized gerrymandering, legalized monopolies, legalized lying, legalized cheating, and legalized stealing...

    all 100% legal for the 1%; and 100% born off the backs of the 99%...

    why do the heathen rage ? ? ?

     

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

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 1:23pm

    “What we need is — and this is, I think, pretty much recognized — is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they’re cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behaviour, both their electronic behaviour on the job as well as off the job to see if there is a potential clearance issue.”

    This (in a much more general context then used here) and combined with real constitutional protections and limits- sounds like the right idea to start fixing things. Shame he's only referring to shutting down whistle-blowers- opps, I mean "insider threats".


    "Dissatisfaction with US policies"
    how could anyone be satisfied with all us policys?
    funny imagining what that person might be like...

     

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

  12.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 3:14pm

    Re: Dear America!

    Unfortunately, it's worse than that. At this point the individuals are less the problem than the system. I'm not saying that those involved aren't responsible, but when the system itself is corrupt, through and through, voting someone different in doesn't have as much effect as you might think.

     

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

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 4:21pm

    Re:

    I'm beginning to think there's no difference between a whistleblower and a scotsman. Watch out, all you true Scotsmen!

     

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

  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 28th, 2014 @ 4:24pm

    Re:

    They'd be insane for a start; highly fluent in doublethink as well. Probably good at doublspeak too.

     

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

  15.  
    icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 4:31pm

    So as long as you slap "cause terrorists" on it, Congress will accept them doing anything they want.
    Violate their office, violate their oath, violate their charter, violate that stupid piece of paper...

    And still no one wants to pull the fscking car over and slap the kids acting up in the backseat.

     

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

  16.  
    icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 6:14pm

    60%? 70%? 98%

    What is the likelihood, then that the CIA has captured Congress?

    I mean the CIA now has biographical leverage on pretty much everyone in congress or who works for them, right?

     

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

  17.  
    icon
    That One Guy (profile), Jul 28th, 2014 @ 11:23pm

    More proof that for all the claims of how whistleblowers should 'go through official channels', the reality is, anyone stupid enough to do that has done nothing less than point a huge target on their back, and are likely to accomplish nothing in fixing the problem.

     

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


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