Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

Sequestration Could Give Ammunition to Spies, Officials Warn

ARCHIVES
Image by File404/Shutterstock.com

The main discussion about sequestration weakening national security has centered on cuts to the military, but government and industry officials are warning that the cuts could have another unforeseen threat: foreign spying.

In a Buzzfeed article published Wednesday, Rep. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and several officials with knowledge of security clearance procedures expressed worry that cuts of about 20 percent to federal workers’ pay could give ammunition to foreign spies on the hunt for classified information.

Their worry is that sequestration cuts could leave some furloughed workers scrounging for money and willing to pass off information in exchange for cash.

"When I was in the Air Force, we had a few espionage cases. Every time we had an espionage case, it was somebody who got involved because their life had fallen apart," Graham told Buzzfeed.

Although that is speculation at this point – there is no known instance since sequestration took effect March 1 – officials acknowledge the furloughs give spies abroad a wider field of potential recruits.

In an interview with Government Executive on Thursday, former CIA Director James Woolsey said the concerns are legitimate.

“It’s not good to put people who are custodians of classified information and so forth into a situation of pressure,” Woolsey said.

Woolsey resigned in 1994 in response to accusations that he botched the handling of Aldrich Ames, a CIA officer who was found guilty of feeding information to Russian spies. The Ames case is regarded as the worst in CIA history – he handed over troves of critical information to enemy spies, including the names of U.S. agents.

Although most workers who make it through the vetting process are “straight shooters,” it’s inevitable that a weak person gets in every so often, Woolsey said. However, he stressed diminishing support for the military is a far greater threat.

About 4.8 million U.S. citizens held security clearance in 2011, according to a study conducted by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and cited by Buzzfeed.

According to a private sector official who connects government agencies with potential employees, most clearance are for the lowest classification known as “confidential,” which gives access to sensitive information in secure “clean” facilities. While American spies also have access, many such clearances are for IT workers, managers and engineers.

“From a security standpoint, that means that there are millions of Americans with knowledge of what may seem like mundane information — say, the time a truck driver is to report for duty on a particular day — but which could be critical to agents looking to hijack sensitive chemicals, attack an installation, or simply track movements of government officials,” the article says.

Reach Reporter Ian Kullgren at Ian.Kullgren@Shns.com or 202-326-2143. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. 

Image by File404/Shutterstock.com

Ian Kullgren is a staff reporter for the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire. Prior to his current role, he covered the 2012 election in his home state of Michigan, where he followed the Republican primary race in Michigan’s 6th Congressional District for MLive Media Group. He was also a member of the Michigan capitol press corps for Michigan State University's State News, covering Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, the state legislature and the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.