Today POGO was joined by 21 other civil society organizations across the political spectrum in requesting Intelligence Community Inspector General Charles McCullough to investigate federal initiatives to identify internal security threats. Our concerns that these initiatives will be misused and used to target whistleblowers seem to have been well founded.
The initiative, called the Insider Threat Program, was created in 2011 through an Executive Order in order to ensure “responsible sharing and safeguarding of classified information.” It included a specific provision prohibiting the use of this program to identify or prevent lawful whistleblower disclosures. Despite this prohibition Kenneth Lipp at the Daily Beast found a recent joint webinar from the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) that conflated whistleblowers like Thomas Drake with terrorists like Nidal Hasan (the Fort Hood killer) and Aaron Alexis (the Navy Yard killer). As described in the letter, this is only the latest example of ODNI erroneously conflating true insider threats to classified information with lawful whistleblowing.
This Administration has prosecuted national security whistleblowers at an unprecedented level, using the Espionage Act to prosecute disclosures to the press three times more than every previous Administration combined. An evaluation of the Insider Threat Program, including an investigation into whether it has been improperly used to target or identify whistleblowers, is overdue.
You can read the whole letter here.