by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
With his “Insider Threat Program,” President Obama has linked his legacy with that of J. Edgar Hoover’s crusade “to root out political opponents, smash political opposition, and to quell voices of dissent.” The secret program also “operates in direct contradiction to the 2002 No FEAR Act, the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century.”
“Big Brother” Has Been Watching You… For a Long Time
by BAR editor and columnist Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo
“Federal agencies are refusing to answer questions about this secret program.”
Executive Order 13587
As reported last week in “Big Brother is Watching,” President Barack Obama, signed Executive Order 13587 on October 7, 2011 entitled: Structural Reforms to Improve the Security of Classified Networks and the Responsible Sharing and Safeguarding of Classified Information (Federal Register Vol. 76, No. 198 (10/13/11). The president’s decision to initiate the “Insider” program was triggered by revelations from Pvt. Bradley Manning, a US Army soldier who courageously exposed illegal US military attacks against civilians in Iraq and allegedly passed classified data to the website WikiLeaks. The program outlined in Executive Order 13587 is called the Insider Threat Program (ITP).
Now that the program has come to light, it has been condemned by both liberal and conservative news organizations because it has raised concerns about privacy, unethical governmental behavior and the unavoidable comparison with Nazi, East German and McCarthy era witch hunts that destroyed the lives and careers of thousands of people. In fact, following an investigative report by the McClatchy news organization, Fox News issued an article by Dough McKelway entitled: “‘Insider Threat’? Program urging federal workers to tattle on each other raises concerns.”
The publicity didn’t seem to faze the White House. Press Secretary Jay Carney, when asked about specific provisions of the ITP that were raised by the McClatchy article, responded, "I confess I didn't see the story. I'll have to take the question."
“Obama is not the first head of state to enact an “insider threat” program.”
Federal agencies are also refusing to answer questions about this secret program. For example, the Department of Education, responding to a request from McClatchy to answer questions about the implementation of the ITP replied, “The Department of Education will decline to comment on this particular inquiry.” Alarms have sounded as media and human rights organizations learn more about this secret program and the possibility – or probability – of grand-scale abuse.
President Obama’s “Insider” Executive Order is predicated upon a sordid and shameful history by his predecessors to root out political opponents, smash political opposition, and to quell voices of dissent. Unfortunately, Obama is not the first head of state to enact an “insider threat” program, but he is probably the first to state openly his commitment to transparency and much-needed protection for Federal whistle blowers.
In1947, President Harry Truman signed Executive Order 9835 instituting a program of “loyalty reviews for federal employees.” The Order called for dismissal if there were "reasonable grounds...for belief that the person involved is disloyal to the Government of the United States." Then FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover designed the Truman loyalty-security program, marked by a lack of transparency and accountability, using it to successfully double the size of the FBI over a six-year period, from 3,559 personnel in 1946 to 7,029 in 1952. Under Hoover’s “Insider” program, victims of the “loyalty” program were kept in the dark and were not allowed to know the identity of their accusers or respond to accusations. Obama’s “Insider” program appears to be on the same trajectory as more Americans find themselves monitored, tracked and accused of being “Un-American” for exposing government corruption.
Thousands of government careers were destroyed under the Truman program, ultimately throwing families into economic and social crises because once a job was lost due to an unfavorable loyalty review, another job was almost impossible to find, making them unemployable. In the words of the Chairman of Truman’s Loyalty Review Board, "A man is ruined everywhere and forever,… No responsible employer would be likely to take a chance in giving him a job."
“Under Hoover’s “Insider” program, victims of the “loyalty” program were kept in the dark and were not allowed to know the identity of their accusers or respond to accusations.”
Between 1951 to 1955, the FBI operated a secret "Responsibilities Program" that circulated unverified documents from FBI files claiming communist affiliations by teachers, lawyers, and others, trapping them in FBI sting operations so that they were fired without recourse. Under Truman’s program,” federal employees accused of disloyalty were terminated without due process.
In 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower issued Executive Order 10450 that strengthened and extended Truman's program. The Eisenhower program, similar to the Obama Executive Order, covered a wide range of characteristics deemed to imply personal vulnerability that could lead to “disloyalty” (see Big Brother is Watching – BAR, July 17, 2013). The Eisenhower Order determined that if a federal employee had any of the following characteristics they were unfit for government service:
"Any criminal, infamous, dishonest, immoral, or notoriously disgraceful conduct, habitual use of intoxicants to excess, drug addiction, or sexual perversion."
Later, Hiram Bingham, Chairman of the Civil Service Commission Loyalty Review Board, when referring to the Eisenhower loyalty program lamented: [its] "just not the American way of doing things."
In 1958 it was estimated that approximately one out of every five employees in the U.S. were forced to undergo a version of a loyalty review and loyalty reviews spread to state and local governments, embraced by a significant number of private industries.
As far back as 1942, the Department of Justice started compiling lists of organizations that it deemed disloyal and “subversive.” This list was first published in 1948 and at its height included over 154 organizations, with 110 of them identified as Communist. One of the most common causes for suspicion was membership in the Washington Bookshop Association, a left-leaning organization that offered lectures on literature, classical music concerts and discounts on books.
“Under Truman’s program, federal employees accused of disloyalty were terminated without due process.”
One of the hallmarks of the Nixon administration was secrecy and retaliation against perceived enemies. In an article entitled: “Worse Than Nixon: Pentagon Papers Lawyer on Obama, Secrecy and Press Freedoms,” Glenn Greenwald writes:
“In 1971, when the New York Times decided to publish the Pentagon Papers leaked to it by Daniel Ellsberg, it knew it was triggering a major fight with the secrecy-obsessed Nixon administration. As expected, the Nixon administration sued the NYT in an attempt to ban it from publishing the documents, but the US Supreme Court, in a landmark decision for Freedom of the Press, ruled the prior restraint unconstitutional. James Goodale, the paper's general counsel at the time, said that he counseled the paper to publish despite the more likely scenario that everyone feared was the fact that they could have gone to jail, and he subsequently became an outspoken defender of press freedoms.”
The Obama Administration’s “Insider Threat Program” is a continuation of undemocratic and insidious machinations by a number of presidents to silence and compromise the legitimate rights of American citizens under the Constitution. The Administration’s abuse of the 1917 Espionage Act, prosecution of whistleblowers and critics of his administration, is meant to have a chilling effect on the media, public servants and citizens throughout the United States. Goodale argues that if the “Obama Administration indicts WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for conspiracy to violate the Espionage Act, the president will have succeeded where Nixon failed by using the act to ‘end-run’ the First Amendment.”
The use of Executive Order to perpetrate a victimization of loyal and courageous citizens under the guise of fostering good government and protection has clearly circumvented the Legislative branch of government by the Executive. The “Insider Threat Program” operates in direct contradiction to the 2002 No FEAR Act, the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century. No FEAR was passed by Congress to encourage government employees to expose corruption and discrimination. The intent was that federal agencies be held accountable for whistleblower retaliation and civil rights violations.
We call upon citizens to demand that President Obama rescind the “Insider Threat Program” and break the generational curse of governmental interference in the careers and lives of people committed to protecting their community and this country against the abuse of power and the powerful.
Dr. Marsha Coleman-Adebayo is the author of No FEAR: A Whistleblowers Triumph over Corruption and Retaliation at the EPA is available through amazon.com and the National Whistleblower Center. Dr. Coleman-Adebayo worked at the EPA for 18 years and blew the whistle on a US multinational corporation that endangered vanadium mine workers. Marsha's successful lawsuit lead to the introduction and passage of the first civil rights and whistleblower law of the 21st century: the Notification of Federal Employees Anti-discrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002 (No FEAR Act). She is Director of Transparency and Accountability for the Green Shadow Cabinet.