Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Spy Nation

I noted the following stories from Drudge this morning all involving spying, to some extent at least, on Americans. The big one is that the Administration now wants federal employees to spy on one another in order to stop embarrassing leaks of information. 
In an initiative aimed at rooting out future leakers and other security violators, President Barack Obama has ordered federal employees to report suspicious actions of their colleagues based on behavioral profiling techniques that are not scientifically proven to work, according to experts and government documents.
The techniques are a key pillar of the Insider Threat Program, an unprecedented government-wide crackdown under which millions of federal bureaucrats and contractors must watch out for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers. Those who fail to report them could face penalties, including criminal charges.
Obama mandated the program in an October 2011 executive order after Army Pfc. Bradley Manning downloaded hundreds of thousands of documents from a classified computer network and gave them to WikiLeaks, the anti-government secrecy group. The order covers virtually every federal department and agency, including the Peace Corps, the Department of Education and others not directly involved in national security.
Under the program, which is being implemented with little public attention, security investigations can be launched when government employees showing “indicators of insider threat behavior” are reported by co-workers, according to previously undisclosed administration documents obtained by McClatchy. Investigations also can be triggered when “suspicious user behavior” is detected by computer network monitoring and reported to “insider threat personnel.”
Federal employees and contractors are asked to pay particular attention to the lifestyles, attitudes and behaviors – like financial troubles, odd working hours or unexplained travel – of co-workers as a way to predict whether they might do “harm to the United States.” Managers of special insider threat offices will have “regular, timely, and, if possible, electronic, access” to employees’ personnel, payroll, disciplinary and “personal contact” files, as well as records of their use of classified and unclassified computer networks, polygraph results, travel reports and financial disclosure forms.
The program not only covers agencies involved in national security or law enforcement, but other agencies such as the Peace Corps and the departments of Health and Human Services, and Education. Well, we don't want insiders leaking information about women in the Peace Corps being targeted for rape, or the failures of ObamaCare, or that Michelle Obama's lunch program is a failure.

In other news, some push back against new HIPAA rules that would allow access to mental health records in order to incorporate such records into a background registry.

The database, called the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, or NICS, is used by gun dealers to check whether a potential buyer is prohibited from owning a gun.
States are encouraged to report to the database the names of people who are not allowed to buy guns because they have been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital, or have been found to have serious mental illnesses by courts.
Many states do not participate. So the administration is looking at changing a health privacy rule - part of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) - to remove one potential barrier.
They need to change the HIPAA rules, which could potentially allow access to your medical records, because it is too hard to search court records for where a court has involuntarily committed someone or found someone mentally incompetent. (Sarcasm).

Reuters reports that the NSA was spying on Latin American countries. Again, the issue isn't that the spying was taking place (that is, after all, the purpose of an intelligence agency) but the method they used to obtain the data, which was with the cooperation and assistance of private telecom companies. Even if the telecom companies didn't violate the laws of these other nations in providing the information, it has damaged the reputations and trust in these companies. Just imagine--if the NSA hadn't been illegally spying on Americans, none of this would have come to light.

Lest anyone think that I am bashing only Democrats on this, I'm not. I was opposed to the so-called Patriot Act. I have long been opposed to loss of civil rights due to the "drug war." I even voted against Bush in his second election because of his support of the Patriot Act. These laws and practices are pernicious to a free society, whether proposed and implemented by a Republican (Bush) or expanded and abused by a Democrat (Obama).

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