The recent revelation that Obama is using OFA members to quash opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline gave credence to accusations that the president has already endorsed big energy's interests while pretending to weigh the concerns of the public.
A report written yesterday by Marisa Taylor and Jonathan S. Landay for McClatchy suggests the president has been employing an even more loathsome tactic to protect corporate interests:
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
The story contradicts the administration’s claims that government spying on U.S. citizens has been limited to terrorist investigations.
Attempting to curb leaks by Department of Agriculture employees suggests the Insider Threat Program was designed to protect the interests of big business, not to shield the general public from terrorist threats.
With the recent passage of the Monsanto Protection Act, a questionable bill that prevents Monsanto from being sued, it is easy to make the assumption that leaks originating within the Department of Agriculture could be damaging to Monsanto’s bottom line. By opting to protect Monsanto’s dubious policies, Congress, and the Obama administration have effectively stifled efforts to stem the forced usage of genetically modified crops.
I don’t believe any Democratic voter in 2008 could have imagined the new president implementing an Orwellian policy that would require government employees to spy on fellow workers. Those of us, who are old enough to have lived during the 1960s, remember watching news reports that detailed the arrests of German citizens who had been reported by fellow workers for exhibiting suspicious behavior.
And when news broke that Justice Department officials had secretly tracked the communications of journalists, media personnel reported a chilling effect had descended on the news industry, drying up confidential news sources that had been essential to exposing corruption.
Christine Haughney of the NY Times recently reported:
Josh Meyer, director of education and outreach at the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative at Northwestern University and a writer for Quartz, said that in the 30 years he has lived on and off in Washington, he has never found journalists to be so skittish about being under the government’s watchful eye.Obama assured us that information gathered by the NSA was limited in scope and that the agency followed strict guidelines when accessing the information. But information uncovered by news agencies repudiates the spin coming from the White House:
“It’s so bad that there’s a gallows humor that has sort of emerged out of this,” Mr. Meyer said. “You see journalists at parties, and you joke about ‘How is the investigation going?’ ” People just assume they’re being investigated, and it’s not a good feeling.”
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material.And of course, we have the assurance that none of the information that has been processed by federal employees and contractors has fallen into the wrong hands.
At the hearing, McFarland called for much closer oversight of the investigators who conduct background checks. He said that 18 background investigators and record searchers have been criminally convicted since 2006 for fabricating information in background reports.(All emphasis mine)
McFarland's office is actively working on 11 fabrication cases and another 36 cases involving background investigators are pending, according to data he provided to the subcommittees.
Of the 18 investigators who were criminally convicted, 11 were federal employees and seven were contractors. Of the 47 active and pending cases, six involve federal employees and 41 involve contractors, according to McFarland.
Like Watergate, this story might take months to unravel.
Obama promised a transparent presidency, but his administration has been anything but forthcoming. Most of his policies have been crafted behind closed doors, relying solely on the input of corporate lobbyists.
And he has gone to extreme lengths to protect the interests of big business, including developing covert programs that stifle dissent. Unwittingly, he defined his presidency when he told bankers, "My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
UPDATE: I followed smiley7's advice and changed the name of the diary.