- July 1, 2010
Eyes on Five Sides
The Defense Department protects us, but who's protecting the Pentagon?
Steven Calvery's job is no cakewalk. The director of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency oversees the safekeeping of the Pentagon and other Defense facilities around Washington.
Wedged among three major highways and located at the largest Metro facility in the Washington region, the Pentagon operates like a city. In 2009, President Obama visited the complex about 11 times, and on a typical weekday, more than 25,000 people pass through its doors.
But the security infrastructure of the world's largest office building remains "old and antiquated," says Calvery, who admits that screening every employee entering and exiting the complex is a "physical impossibility," because of the volume of human traffic and the state of technology.
When a gunman opened fire near the Pentagon entrance in March, "it was kind of a wake-up call for us," Calvery says. The department installed better lighting and stepped up random checks and plans to expand the buffer area outside.
Now the department is in its first year of Pentagon Sentry, a $200 million program created during the fiscal 2010 budget process and spread out over five years to make permanent the security measures implemented at the Pentagon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
After the Fort Hood, Texas, massacre in November 2009, threats from within could crop up anywhere, according to Calvery. "People get fired from the federal government (and they do get fired from the federal government)," he says. "We have those people threatening other employees, employees threatening each other, we have domestic issues. It's almost like a small city here, and we've got to deal with all those issues and its impacts on the security of people at work."
Revered by some and reviled by others, whistleblowers have been compelling figures. Recently, however, the tide has been turning. The message from the Obama administration: Nobody likes a tattletale.
This spring, the government put the squeeze on federal employees who have publicly divulged information. A few examples:
The military in early June arrested an Army intelligence analyst who said he released a classified combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site WikiLeaks.org.
On May 12, the Merit Systems Protection Board upheld the Homeland Security Department's decision to fire a former federal air marshal for un- authorized disclosure of "sensitive security information." Robert MacLean had sent an agency budget-cutting memo he received on his cell phone to an MSNBC reporter in 2003, and said the department would be pulling air marshals from flights requiring costly overnight hotels amid heightened intelligence warnings about planned terrorist attacks on U.S. aircraft.
In April, a former senior National Security Agency official who divulged information on billions of dollars of cost overruns and technical problems at the agency to a former Baltimore Sun reporter, was indicted on 10 counts for storing classified information, lying and destroying evidence.