As part of an “Insider Threat” strategy to combat information leaks, the federal government’s catchall crackdown on disclosures of classified info could encourage bureaucrats to spy on each other which could discourage legitimate whistleblowing about waste, fraud, or abuse having nothing to do with national security.
A report from the McClatchy Washington bureau that suggests that the aggressive program, which originally got going in October 2011, could possibly even result in a form of employee-on-employee snitching. “Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material.”
McClathy claims that it obtained a Defense Department memo that said “Hammer this fact home … leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States.”
According to McClatchy, the administration’s hard line on secrecy could have negative consequences for transparency: “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, according to these current and former officials and experts. Some non-intelligence agencies already are urging employees to watch their co-workers for ‘indicators’ that include stress, divorce and financial problems.”
In an interview on CNN that primarily centered on the status of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Guardian writer Glenn Greenwald — the journalist who broke the PRISM domestic surveillance initiative -– addressed this crackdown on government leaks: “We do have a climate in the United States that has been created over the last five years in which leakers and whistleblowers — people who step forward to inform the public about classified information because they think it reveals wrongdoing — are treated as this McClatchy articles said as enemies of the state, basically traitors.”
Added Greenwald: “They’re not people who worked for a foreign government, sold the information, worked at the behest of a foreign government, just anybody who discloses anything the government marks classified is deemed to be an enemy of the state and punished severely. And that is a very dangerous threat to the newsgathering process and is the reason why whistleblowers who come forward like Mr. Snowden feel the need to flee because the government has become so oppressive with regard to that behavior.”
Do you think the Obama administration’s policy about preventing information leaks is appropriate or has it gone too far?