Secrecy News

Insider Threat Program Advances, Slowly

Nearly two years after President Obama issued a National Insider Threat Policy “to strengthen the protection and safeguarding of classified information” against espionage or unauthorized disclosure, the effort is still at an early stage of development.

Only last week, the U.S. Air Force finally issued a directive to implement the 2012 Obama policy. (AF Instruction 16-1402, Insider Threat Program Management). And even now it speaks prospectively of what the program “will” do rather than what it has done or is doing.

The new Air Force Instruction follows similar guidance issued last year by the Army and the Navy.

The Air Force Insider Threat Program includes several intended focus areas, including continuous evaluation of personnel, auditing of government computer networks, and procedures for reporting anomalous behavior.

“Procedures must be in place that support continuous evaluation of personnel to assess their reliability and trustworthiness,” the AF Instruction says.

Such continuous evaluation procedures may eventually sweep broadly over many domains of public and private information, but they are not yet in place.

“There are a number of ongoing pilot studies to assess the feasibility of select automated records checks and the utility of publicly available electronic information, to include social media sites, in the personnel security process,” said Brian Prioletti of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee last November.

The Air Force directive also encourages reporting of unusual behavior by potential insider threats.

“Insider threat actors typically exhibit concerning behavior,” the directive says. But this is not self-evidently true in all cases, and the directive does not provide examples of “concerning behavior.”

A Department of Defense training module recently identified expressions of “unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy” as a potential threat indicator, the Huffington Post reported last week. (“Pentagon Training Still Says Dissent Is A Threat ‘Indicator'” by Matt Sledge, August 4.) If so, that criterion would not narrow the field very much.

The “CORRECT Act” (HR5240) that was introduced last month by Rep. Bennie Thompson and Sen. Ron Wyden would require any insider threat program to meet certain standards of fairness and employee protection, and “to preserve the rights and confidentiality of whistleblowers.”

That message may have been partially internalized already. The terms “civil liberties” and “whistleblowers” are each mentioned four times in the eight-page Air Force Instruction.

2 thoughts on “Insider Threat Program Advances, Slowly

  1. More window dressing from the Administration*, obviously intended to show that they are taking ‘action’ as a result of the Snowden Affair. Abuse potential is high. Any such bill merely legalizes investigation of any kind of behavior, by any government employee or contractor. In addition, it will serve to create a climate of fear within such organizations[…]. Working in a ‘climate of fear’ can’t have ANY positive benefits, in fact, the opposite is true. Now imagine the increase in workload required to ‘monitor’ (spy on) 2 million folks with Top Secret clearances. It’s laughable. This would make the spy agencies even less effective than they are now, if that’s even possible.
    Had such a policy been in effect pre-Snowden, he wouldn’t have bothered questioning ANY policy; he would have kept his nose down until the time was right, then exit with the goods. In any case, he should have realized that ‘national security’ issues, in fact ALL foreign policy issues, are handled by lifers in the various agencies, led by interested outside parties. Any administration merely rubber-stamps them. For example, Russia-baiting policies have been in place since the 50’s. They are embedded in the system. Ukraine is a textbook example. Spy agencies CANNOT be changed from within, ever. NO change can come from within, and ‘congressional oversight’ is a joke.
    The next ‘snowden’ will know all this, and respond accordingly. They will snowden their employer, and start another round of ‘spy vs. spy’. I wonder how long this system will last before it collapses under it’s weight.
    I gotta go…
    *It doesn’t matter who’s in the White House. Anyone who thinks so is delusional. US foreign policy is consistent through the years.

  2. Yes, the corrosive affect that subjects personnel to a constant acid bath in order to cleanse the rank and file will lead to a restructuring of the toxic stew that is the result of embracing stupidity as a legitimate method in managing the integrity of the mission. “I say Mr.Christian, the men I believe are going to call you to answer–mutiny, a substance that once in the blood stream cannot be taken out will coarse their veins.”

    Promoting a psychological erosion of trust or respect of the institution support provided to the mission can only diminish the institution.

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