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White House Memo Shows Clampdown on Leaks Moving Forward

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An interagency Insider Threat Task Force has established “minimum standards” for responding to threats, according to a memo signed by President Barack Obama. The “standards” include policies to prevent “unauthorized disclosures” of information.

The released memo instructed departments and agencies to set up policies or procedures for gathering, integrating, and centrally analyzing and responding to “key threat-related information,” monitoring employee use of classified networks and providing the workforce with “insider threat awareness training” while at the same time protecting “the civil liberties and privacy of all personnel.” Threats to be monitored included “potential espionage, violent acts against the Government or the Nation, and unauthorized disclosure of classified information, including the vast amounts of classified data available on interconnected United States Government computer networks and systems.”

I appeared on RT America to address the memo and its implications. Mostly, it seems to indicate the gears of bureaucracy continue to slowly turn in service of a culture of secrecy in Washington. This task force was setup in response to Pfc. Bradley Manning’s alleged release of classified information to WikiLeaks.

Agencies like the Pentagon setup working groups as early as April 2011 to develop strategies and plans of action and “milestones aimed at improving” their ability to “prevent accidental” leaks. They also aimed to “deter intentional public disclosure of classified national security information.” The Insider Threat Task Force began to meet in October of last year. An incident reporting system at the Pentagon was fully operational in December 2011. So, around this time, other agencies and departments began to bring systems online to prevent future leaks.

During the clip, I point out the policy is extraneous as it is already official policy for national security agency employees to not release classified information without proper authorization. This adds another layer of procedures meant to chill speech and whistleblowing. It fits in with the anti-leaks proposals that are in the current Senate intelligence authorization bill, which Sen. Ron Wyden has placed a public hold on to protect freedom of the press and due process.

It is not a new development, as this process began months ago, however, it is an indication that the Obama administration, which prosecuted more whistleblowers or leakers in the past four years under the Espionage Act than any other previous administration, has a disposition against the free flow of information. And only a few senators or representatives stand up to stop national security policy  that endangers civil liberties or violates the rule of law because they do not want to risk their careers by taking on the heads of national security agencies or, worse, decorated and esteemed military brass.


I’ll be at Fort Meade covering Bradley Manning’s latest court martial all week. The hearing is incredibly critical to the defense and will center on how Manning was treated when he was imprisoned at the Quantico Marine Brig.

The defense will be arguing an “unlawful pretrial punishment motion.” Quantico commanders and mental health professionals are expected to testify on Tuesday and Wednesday. Manning is expected to take the stand on Thursday and/or Friday to testify on what he experienced while imprisoned. On Saturday and Sunday, prosecution witnesses will take the stand.

As I have done since I began to cover Manning hearings back in December of last year, there will be a live blog. I’ll also have reports in the afternoon on the proceedings. Also, look for updates on Twitter while I am at Meade during the day – @kgosztola 


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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."