July 10, 2012
The techniques employed by Obama’s Insider Threat Program are reminiscent of those used by the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. Unlike the Nazis, however, Obama’s effort – the result of an unconstitutional executive order issued in October, 2011 – is limited, for now, to federal government employees.
The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.
Under the program, which is being implemented with little public attention, security investigations can be launched when government employees showing “indicators of insider threat behavior” are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. Investigations also can be triggered when “suspicious user behavior” is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to “insider threat personnel.”
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.
The effort is not limited to preventing whistleblowers like Edward Snowden. “The initiative goes beyond classified information leaks,” McClatchy explains. “It includes as insider threats ‘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,’ according to a document setting ‘Minimum Standards for Executive Branch Insider Threat Programs.’”
In his book, The Third Reich in Power, Richard J. Evans describes a similar pattern in Nazi Germany. The Gestapo, the official secret police of Germany in the 1930s and all of occupied Europe during the Second World War, relied on a large network of informers comprised largely of average citizens. The end result of the Gestapo’s panopticism – as described by Canadian historian Robert Gellately – was the creation of widespread fear and the belief that the state was all-seeing, an attribute fictionalized by George Orwell in his seminal novel, Nineteen Eighty Four.
Critics will argue that Obama’s effort is limited to the federal workforce and it does not threaten society at large. Developments since September 11, 2001, however, reveal that a Gestapo-like panopticism – a social theory originally developed by French philosopher Michel Foucault in his book, Discipline and Punish – is already at work in American society.
Because of the Department of Homeland Security’s “see something, say something” program and the TSA’s intrusive and humiliating search techniques and revelations of the NSA’s overarching electronic surveillance grid – a high-tech electronic panopticon — it can be categorically stated that America is now a Stasi police state.
Mission creep under the rubric of the so-called war on terror is now commonplace. The Department of Homeland security was established in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks to address the supposed threat Americans face from foreign terrorists.
“Over the last decade, the feds have established a number of efforts to nationalize law enforcement and create a number of organizations designed to supposedly ‘protect the homeland’ from not only terrorists – most handled by the FBI and the CIA – but all sorts of domestic criminals, including those who engage in victimless crimes such as drug use and prostitution,” we reported last March.
There are now dozens of organizations feeding off tax dollars dispensed by the feds – from FEMA’s Citizen Corps to Volunteers in Police Service and Infragard and beyond. In many ways, these federally-funded and organized groups rival the police state apparatus active in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union.
For example, the DHS now “protects victims” from “domestic violence and other violent crimes” that have nothing to do with the late CIA asset Osama bin Laden or the would-be nineteen hijackers who trained on U.S. military bases. The mega-bureaucracy now doles out money to everything from “Juvenile Accountability” to anti-counterfeiting, border security, and computer incident response.
But it really shines when it comes to acting as a political surveillance tool for the establishment. It has successfully exploited the global jihad terror myth to spy on antiwar and patriot groups and recently the Occupy movement. So-called fusion centers – centralized high-tech Orwellian snoop hubs – now dot the landscape and feed data into the DHS leviathan.
Obama’s Insider Threat Program sets a precedent for similar action outside government. In fact, Infragard – a public-private partnership between business and government (the very essence of fascism) – serves as an apparatus that shares data with the government’s intelligence network.
The ACLU put it mildly when it said there “is evidence that InfraGard may be closer to a corporate TIPS program, turning private-sector corporations — some of which may be in a position to observe the activities of millions of individual customers — into surrogate eyes and ears for the FBI.”