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    Preemptive Whistleblower Defense? US Military Wants to Predict Traitors

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    The US Department of Defense is developing a protocol to share information on government employees with high-level security clearance, to identify potential domestic enemies and “insider threats.” Critics suggest the system will serve as a deterrent to whistleblowers.

    The wide-ranging program, called the "DoD Component Insider Threat Records System," will, according to the Federal Register, "…analyze, monitor, and audit insider threat information for insider threat detection and mitigation within DoD on threats that insiders may pose to DoD and US Government installations, facilities, personnel, missions, or resources. The system will… enable the identification of systemic insider threat issues and challenges, provide a basis for the development and recommendation of solutions to mitigate potential insider threats, and assist in identifying best practices amongst other Federal Government insider threat programs." 

    The system will also be able to share data pulled from email, keystroke and social media posts.

    According to the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, the DOD will function on an insider-threat definition as, "The threat that an insider will use hers/his authorized access, wittingly or unwittingly, to do harm to the security of the United States. This threat can include damage to the United States through espionage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure of national security information, or through the loss or degradation of departmental resources or capabilities."

    Only DOD personnel with the relevant training will have access to the system, according to spokeswoman Linda Rojas. 

    "Adequate controls, training, and oversight are in place to ensure that personally identifiable information is protected and that only information which meets a predetermined threshold is entered into the system," Rojas said, describing the system as "holistic" because "data containing anomalous behaviors that may be indicative of an insider threat can come from many sources, such as personnel security, physical security, information assurance, and law enforcement." 

    The carefully-crafted nature of the system leads many to suggest that it is a thinly veiled attempt at discouraging whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning, Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden, all of whom have leaked classified information and suffered either imprisonment, exile or financial ruin as a result.

    Michael German, a fellow for the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, and a 16-year federal law enforcement employee, said, "When you read the insider threat material, what they view as a threat is somebody reporting information about government activity to the press, which is, in a democratic society, not only important but necessary." 

    The insider-threat detection system will also be used to distribute equal opportunity employment violations, and German feels that casting such a large net can make everyday issues seem more drastic than they actually are. 

    "Almost all of us at different periods of time, have been upset with the people we work with, and that is part of the human nature, so to identify that behavior as potentially troubling and indicative of being (an) insider threat is both inappropriate and likely to lead to errors," he said. 

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    Tags:
    US Pentagon, Defense Department, whistleblowers, Pentagon, US Department of Defense (DoD), Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden, United States
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