Is Gleeful Slaughter of Children a "Red Flag"?

In October 2011, President Obama instituted the Insider Threat program (Kudos to McClatchy), whose purpose is to require federal workers in all areas of goverment to report potential leakers on the basis of observed behavior.  The idea is for nearly 5 million federal workers and contractors to receive 90 minutes of training before being sent out to judge their fellow citizens on the basis of superficial behavior.  Even members of the Peace Corps could face criminal charges for neglecting to channel McCarthy. SPOT, a $278 multi-million dollar program aimed at security in airports and on airplanes, which employs the same techniques, has been officially declared a miserable failure by none other than DHS's inspector general.  But some people are convinced that paranoia is good for "the country", and that's just the way it is.

There are many things to fear and loathe about this program, most of them based on common sense, but as is so often the case these days, nitpicking the details does as much to obscure as to inform.  Before turning our attention to the elephant in the room, let's ignore the soothing words of government officials and take a look at just how actively anti-democratic this program will likely be in its execution:

[emphasis added]

Different agencies and departments have different lists of behavior indicators. Most have adopted the traditional red flags for espionage. They include financial stress, disregard for security practices, unexplained foreign travel, unusual work hours and unexplained or sudden wealth.

But agencies and their consultants have added their own indicators.

For instance, an FBI insider threat detection guide warns private security personnel and managers to watch for “a desire to help the ‘underdog’ or a particular cause,” a “James Bond Wannabe” and a “divided loyalty: allegiance to another person or company or to a country besides the United States.”

A report by the Deloitte consulting firm identifies “several key trends that are making all organizations particularly susceptible to insider threat today.” These trends include an increasingly disgruntled, post-Great Recession workforce and the entry of younger, “Gen Y” employees who were “raised on the Internet” and are “highly involved in social networking.

FBI employess may face criminal charges if they fail to report a fellow employee who in some way betrays a "desire to help the underdog".  Here are some underdogs that come to mind:  children living in areas susceptible to drone strikes, impoverished Americans being taken for a ride by the financial community, citizens concerned to address global warming in a way that has a chance of working.

Or perhaps an FBI agent expresses some sympathy for, say, the farmers of Afghanistan.  Report it you must, because this may be divided loyalty.

Perhaps you notice a co-worker with the kind of rare courage exhibited by Kiriakou, Snowden, Manning and a precious few others.  He may be the kind of James Bond wannabe that can cause a hiccup in the US quest for full spectrum dominance.  You must report.

But most blatantly anti-democratic is that participating in the only area of public discussion not yet well-controlled by the oligarchy is suspicious.  To put it bluntly, "social networking", i.e., participating in citizen discussion and consensus building, unmediated by media and entertainment giants, is seen, I believe accurately, as a threat to the USG.

Even being too young is an issue.  After all, the President himself has expressed concern that poor Gen Y has been "hearing voices", and he's not talking about Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs.  No, he's talking about unsanctioned voices such as the "professional left" who manage to sneak in a word or two over the tightly controlled narrative.

No documents thus far released have stated outright that excessive belief in, or participation in, democratic activity must be reported under penalty of law.  We have seen a private version of this in the Citigroup Plutonomy Memos, which openly advocated strategies for countering the only true threat to concentration of wealth and power:  one person, one vote.  (You won't find these memos easily--there are those who would protect you from "hearing voices".)  Given recent relevations concerning the close coordination between government law enforcement and private financial institutions in shutting down Occupy, which was essentially a desperate attempt to revive the power of the many, it is not far-fetched to believe that such anti-democratic considerations are openly acknowledged at some level of govermment.

The Reddest Flags Going Unremarked

All this is plenty disturbing on its own, but in a sense it distracts from the larger question:  is gleefully murdering civilians, journalists, and children a red flag of sorts?  Is there a place in our criminal justice system for addressing such behavior?  Is there money to spare for a program aimed at training people to identify potential war criminals within the military and the government?  Would it make sense to criminalize neglecting to report activity that might lead someone to suspect a fellow soldier as a potential rapist or war criminal?

The Geneva Conventions, international treaties, and domestic law already criminalize failing to report, investigate and prosecute suspected war criminals but the Obama Administration has shrugged off these obligations with the trite expression, "Look forward, not back".  But when it comes to leaking information, the executive branch has turned this injunction on its head, looking back relentlessly at any and all possible charges against whistleblowers while criminalizing failure to be vigilant in looking forward to ensure that no such behavior occurs in the future.

To focus on one contrasting example, fewer than 5% of rapes within the military are reported, less that a third of those reported result in imprisonment, and the terms of imprisonment are generally quite short.  The war crimes revealed by Bradley Manning and others have resulted in no charges being filed. The government's record on arresting, sometimes torturing, prosecuting, and convicting whistleblowers is much stronger.  The quaint word "values" comes to mind.

Would it be threatening for me to suggest that a few million dollars should be spent training government employees in basic constitutional gurantees so that behavior which threatens to undermine the constitution may be reported promptly before too much damage is done?  I would favor such a program even if it sometimes happened to help the underdog.  (I can say this without placing a legal obligation on coworkers only because I don't work for the FBI.)  Obviously, the aim of Insider Threat is precisely the opposite of this:  to nip in the bud attempts to reveal the ways in which the USG, in partnership with its corporate sponsors, has declared permanent war on the world, including most of its own citizens.




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Note that in the military, at least, they do a bucketload of ...

BruceMcF's picture

... training on not being rapists and other such sensitivity issues ... it seems like every time the rape epidemic in the military gains in profile, they announce a new round of training.

What the military needs more than "take another training session and call me when you stop raping people" would be leadership like that displayed by the top leadership of the Australian military ...

Let the top leadership take these issues seriously ~ as they take seriously the threat of full and democratic public discussion of the secret security state ~ and the red flags and all else would follow. So long as they set them aside as an annoyance to be addressed when some sufficiently powerful advocates raise them and sidestepped otherwise, and there is no procedural fix that will fill the vacuum left by lack of leadership at the top.

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"Sometimes it is best just to submit"

geomoo's picture

Yes, this did occur to me as I wrote the essay.  There have also been a few cases of war crimes being prosecuted.

The subject line of this comment is but one example of the sort of "training" that the US military has used.  The film The Invisible War exposed the woman once in charge of the efforts of the military on this issue (sorry, don't feel like looking up the name) to be have been uninformed to the point of gross incompetence, unable to answer the simplest questions and unaware even of what was being done under her supposed supervision.  But the over-riding issue, to me, involves the difference between talk and action, between tsking and imprisoning.

The film drew attention to what almost amounts to institutionalized rape within the military.  It has received attention at the highest levels.  Powerful people have spoken.  It remains to be seen whether these words will result in effective sanctions for anyone having even distant involvement with rape.  In contrast, we do not need to guess what will happen to whistleblowers in the future, nor is there any grounds for questioning whether Insider Threat will be aggressively honed, focused, and implemented in a determined manner.  There is talk of a zero tolerance policy for rape in the military; efforts to prevent whistleblowing reveal how a zero tolerance policy actually looks in practice.  The military does not want to be seen as allowing rape, and a lot of military people would likely very much like to see rape gone from the military.  But it is unlikely that military people will talk of rapists as traitors and the other strong words people toss around for people like Snowden.  It is unlikely the military will look for ways to throw the book at rapists in ways to mazimize the punishment they receive.  Their efforts might best be characterized as wanting to look like they are doing something and wishing the problem would go away.  To my eyes, it is enlightening to compare the level of commitment and effort on these two issues, all the more so given that most civilized people find rape to be deeply offensive.

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Yes ...

BruceMcF's picture

... I did not intend to say that there is no benefit from useful training in support of a policy ...

... but simply a warning not to be taken in by the use of "the training card" to avoid tackling problems head on.

In the end, we get the brutal, brutalizing military that our military leadership accepts, in preference to either an increase in military pay or a draft as a means of filling the ranks.

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I see

geomoo's picture

I had read that wrong.  Thanks for the clarification, and I'm glad I had a chance to expand on what we're both talking about.

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