Even before former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the government's secret surveillance programs, the Obama administration had ordered government employees to keep tabs on their fellow workers and report those who might be a security threat.
President Barack Obama launched what is known as the Insider Threat Program in October 2011, after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from a classified computer network and sent them to WikiLeaks, according to McClatchy Newspapers,
which reviewed government documents related to the initiative.
When White House spokesman Jan Carney was asked Monday about the program, detailed by McClatchy last week, he said, "I confess I didn't see the story, I'll have to take the question," reports Fox News.
According to McClatchy, the "unprecedented initiative" has not received much public attention "even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments."
"It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of 'insider threat' give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct," said the newspaper, adding that the documents "show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for 'high-risk persons or behaviors' among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them."
"Leaks to the media are equated with espionage," it continued, pointing to a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that read, “Hammer this fact home … leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States."
McClatchy cites concerns by former and current officials that the program "could make it easier for the government to stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations of loyal Americans."
"Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for ‘indicators’ that include stress, divorce and financial problems," McClatchy reported.
"It was just a matter of time before the Department of Agriculture or the FDA started implementing, 'Hey, let's get people to snitch on their friends.' The only thing they haven't done here is reward it," said Kel McClanahan, a Washington lawyer specializing in national security law.
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