President Obama’s Insider Threat Program, instituted in 2011 as a response to Bradley Manning, essentially orders all federal employees to behaviorally profile their colleagues and report any ‘suspicious’ actions.
While much attention has been paid to the program’s Orwellian nature – employees who fail to report ‘suspicious’ activities of co-workers can face criminal charges – little attention has been paid to the actual techniques that underlie the program itself.
Security investigations can be launched against a federal worker if colleagues identify and report actions that seem to be less than normal. And what actions are these? McClatchy explains:
Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.” Managers of special insider threat offices will have “regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access” to employees’ personnel, payroll, disciplinary and “personal contact” files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms.”
Clayton Seymour, a 36-year-old IT specialist from Hilliard, Ohio, recently sent a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the NSA, curious as to whether any data about him was being collected.
What he received in response made his blood boil.
“I am a generally law abiding citizen with nothing I can think of that would require monitoring,” Seymour wrote to me, “but I wanted to know if I was having data collected about me and if so, what.”
So Seymour sent in an FOIA request. Weeks later, a letter from the NSA arrived explaining that he was not entitled to any information. “When I got the declined letter, I was furious,” he told me. “I feel betrayed.”
Seymour had decided to request his NSA file after coming across a recent post of mine instructing Americans on how to properly request such files from the FBI and NSA. A Navy vet and two-time Obama voter who supported the President’s platform of greater governmental transparency, Seymour was shocked by the letter he received.
On June 21, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claimed that — if John Kerry were to pitch a tent between Jerusalem and Ramallah — Netanyahu would sit with Kerry as long as it took until peace was attained.
Here’s Netanyahu’s quote:
“If Secretary Kerry, whose efforts we support, were to pitch a tent halfway between here and Ramallah – that’s 15 minutes away driving time – I’m in it, I’m in the tent. And I’m committed to stay in the tent and negotiate for as long as it takes to work out a solution of peace and security between us and the Palestinians.”
Let’s hold Netanyahu to his word. Let’s get John Kerry to set up camp and demand that Netanyahu prove, before the Israeli public and the world, that he’s ready to sit down for final status negotiations with Palestinian leaders.
If we get 100,000 signatures, the White House will respond to this issue and Netanyahu’s claim. Are you with me?
If so, please sign Yes, John Kerry needs to pitch a tent in Jerusalem and force Netanyahu to meet with him until peace is attained and share it with others.
Thanks in advance.
Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG
Last night, we learned of the tragic death of Michael Hastings, a relentlessly independent journalist whose 2010 reporting in Rolling Stone ended General Stanley McChrystal’s military career.
For some necessary context, this is Rolling Stone ‘s description of that piece:
Hastings’ unvarnished 2010 profile of McChrystal in the pages of Rolling Stone, “The Runaway General,” captured the then-supreme commander of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan openly mocking his civilian commanders in the White House.
The maelstrom sparked by its publication concluded with President Obama recalling McChrystal to Washington and the general resigning his post. “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be met by – set by a commanding general,” Obama said, announcing McChrystal’s departure. “It undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system.”
This morning, barely removed from news of Hastings’ death, Michael Calderone, The Huffington Post‘s Senior Media Reporter (and a journalist I generally respect), apparently thought it would be an important journalistic task to ask McChrystal what he thought of Hastings’ death:
Calderone’s move to ask McChrystal for comment so soon after Hastings’ death immediately struck me as mildly inappropriate, given the former general’s connection to Hastings. More than that, however, it struck me as something – a comment from McChrystal – that would have virtually no journalistic value or significance.
The family in front of me at Newark’s TSA security check was discombobulated.
An elderly Indian woman, wrapped in a stunning sari, blinked blindly at the looming metal detectors. Her husband, with an airport attendant behind him, sat still in his wheelchair. Their middle-aged daughter, struggling to simultaneously close a stroller, take her toddler’s shoes off, and explain to her parents what was occurring by shooing them forward, was in dire need of assistance.
I placed her stroller on the conveyer belt and fished out a bin for her laptop. She smiled weakly as if to say, Thank you for trying.
For a moment, it seemed as though I and my fellow travelers had lucked our way into the slowest moving security line in the history of security lines. For twenty minutes, little headway had been made. But at least nobody before us was being pulled aside for random checks.
Then, it happened. A TSA employee directed her face towards the line and said, ostensibly to the sari-clad woman before her, “You have been randomly selected for a check.”
As a white, Jewish schlump who grew up in Atlanta and now lives in Pittsburgh, I’ve never been stopped by police based upon the blackness of my skin, never been bent over the hood of a sedan and detained based on my dark curls.
While many of my educated, more-sophisticated-than-me black friends have suffered such indignities, I’ve never been profiled, despite being a minority.
And so when I claim that the NSA’s apparent reach into the private lives of Americans is stop-and-frisk on the national level, I do so understanding a key distinction: while the former is being done invisibly, the latter is being done in broad daylight, often with force and harassment.
That said, the NSA’s vacuuming up of phone meta data for all Americans, as well PRISM’s infiltration into every major internet company’s servers, including Google, Facebook and Microsoft, share an important characteristic with stop-and-frisk: the potential violation of Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, which protect against unlawful searches and seizures.
The idea of giving cash directly to the poor, rather than donating to non-profits which provide services, is anathema to most Americans.
A principal reason for this is the way in which we as a society view panhandlers, who have unfortunately come to personify those who are in desperate and immediate need of financial assistance.
Not only has giving cash to those asking for it become frowned upon out of a fear that such money will be spent to support substance addictions, but the very act of panhandling has been criminalized across America. (Of 234 cities surveyed, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty found 53 percent had criminalized public begging.)
Which is why, when Google’s Director of Giving, Jacquelline Fuller, told a superior that she wanted to funnel millions of dollars of cash directly into the hands of the world’s poorest people, he responded, “You must be smoking crack.”
But this is precisely what GiveDirectly, a non-profit based in the U.S., has been doing for some time in Kenya: finding poor villagers and transferring donations directly to them via a cellphone. And the data shows that it’s working.
This year’s Country Ratings Poll, conducted for the BBC World Service by GlobeScan/PIPA, surveyed over 26,000 people worldwide. The poll measured how positively or negatively respondents viewed 25 different countries.
Just six decades removed from the atrocities of the Holocaust, Germany now stands alone as the most positively-viewed country in the world, with 59 percent viewing the country favorably.
In contrast, Israel – partially borne out of the ashes of Nazi Germany’s genocide during World War II – is one of the least popular countries, finishing just ahead of North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran.
From 1999-2010, the total U.S. prison population rose 18 percent, an increase largely reflected by the “drug war” and stringent sentencing guidelines, such as three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences.
However, total private prison populations exploded fivefold during this same time period, with federal private prison populations rising by 784 percent (as seen in the chart below complied by The Sentencing Project):