The Obama Administration has a real problem keeping straight a kind of key distinction… at least if you want to have a democratic and open government. It just can’t tell the difference between a whistleblower and a spy.
That point was driven home in November when the Daily Beast shared a webinar produced by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) that conflated whistleblowers like Thomas Drake and Edward Snowden with spies like Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen… and even with murders Aaron Alexis (the Navy Yard killer) and Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood Killer).
The webinar, aimed at Defense contractors and presented by an official from the National Insider Threat Task Force, raised serious alarms at BORDC/DDF and other civil society groups. On January 7, we joined with the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and 19 other civil society organizations across the political spectrum to ask the Intelligence Community Inspector General to investigate the Insider Threat program (see the letter below).
POGO’s Mandy Smithberger and Liz Hempowicz explain:
the Insider Threat Program, was created in 2011 through an Executive Order in order to ensure “responsible sharing and safeguarding of classified information.” Although it included a specific provision prohibiting the use of this program to identify or prevent lawful whistleblower disclosures. But the webinar is only the latest example of ODNI erroneously conflating true insider threats to classified information with lawful whistleblowing.
This Administration has prosecuted national security whistleblowers at an unprecedented level, using the Espionage Act to prosecute disclosures to the press three times more than every previous Administration combined. An evaluation of the Insider Threat Program, including an investigation into whether it has been improperly used to target or identify whistleblowers, is overdue.