In an effort to prevent leaks and other security violations, the Obama administration has asked federal employees to report suspicious behavior among their coworkers, according to a McClatchy story published Wednesday.
Under the Insider Threat Program -- which was mandated by a 2011 executive order following Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged leaks to anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks -- federal employees and contractors have been directed to watch their colleagues for unusual lifestyle behaviors and attitudes. Red flags include financial troubles, odd hours, unexplained travel and divorce, according to the McClatchy report, which was based on documents and interviews.
The Obama administration wants to train federal employees and contractors in spotting these indicators, which it aims to use to predict whether workers intend to “do harm to the United States,” the news service said.
The McClatchy report cited a 2008 National Research Council publication on detecting terrorists that found no consensus on whether behavior and physiological monitoring techniques are “ready for use.”
Still, the insider threat initiative requires nearly 5 million federal workers and contractors with clearances to be trained to spot behavior indicators and allows departments to extend the training to their entire workforces, McClatchy said.
Employees’ online activities also factor into threat assessments under the program and information gleaned from monitoring online behavior “could be used against them in criminal, security, or administrative proceedings,” administration documents said, according to McCatchy. Suspicious online behavior likely includes accessing information that isn't necessary to an employee's job and downloading material to a thumb drive.
Agencies have some discretion in deciding what behaviors to include on their lists of threat indicators, McClatchy said. An FBI threat detection guide advises managers to watch for “a desire to help the ‘underdog,’” a “James Bond Wannabe,” and a “divided loyalty” -- meaning allegiance to another company or country, according to the news service.
Although the program aims to protect national security, Obama’s 2011 order applies to nearly every agency, including those not directly related to national security, such as the Peace Corps and the Education Department, McClatchy said.
McClatchy asked numerous agencies to comment on the the program. The agencies sent “virtually identical email statements directing inquiries to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, declined to comment or didn’t respond,” the news service said.