Private memo exposes US fears over Wikileaks


The White House has instructed every US government department and agency to create "insider threat" programmes that will ferret out disgruntled or untrustworthy employees who might be tempted to leak the sort of state secrets recently made public by the website WikiLeaks.

A 13-page memo detailing the new policy urges senior civil servants to beef up cyber security and hire teams of psychiatrists and sociologists who can "detect behavioural changes". They will then monitor the moods and attitudes of staff who are allowed to access classified information.

The move is designed to prevent further embarrassing disclosures of the sort which have dominated the news in recent months. Unfortunately, just 48 hours after the memo was sent, a copy was leaked to staff at NBC news, who duly posted it on their website.

"Do you have an insider threat programme or the foundation for such a programme?" it asks department heads, adding that they should keep a close eye on the "relative happiness" of workers, because a staffer who displays "despondence and grumpiness" is likely to be untrustworthy.

In a passage which recalls a level of paranoia last seen during the Cold War, it asks whether agencies are using lie-detector tests or are trying to identify "unusually high occurrences of foreign travel, contacts, or foreign preference" by members of their staff.

The author of the leaked document, Jacob J Lew, is the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. He seems particularly anxious to prevent the media from getting its hands on embarrassing information.

"Are all employees required to report their contacts with the media?" the memo asks, suggesting that staff should even be monitored once they leave the Civil Service: "Do you capture evidence of pre-employment and/or post-employment activities or participation in online media data mining sites like WikiLeaks or Open Leaks?"

The dump of diplomatic cables which ended up in the hands of WikiLeaks is believed to have been the work of Bradley Manning, a relatively junior soldier who nonetheless had access to the computer network used by the US Department of Defense and Department of State to transmit classified information.

Mr Manning, currently in military custody awaiting a court martial, is believed to have been motivated by his experiences in Iraq, which left him disillusioned with US foreign policy. Investigators believe his state of mind was also affected by a series of personal upheavals. He had recently been demoted, and was upset after splitting up with a girlfriend.

The documents Mr Manning allegedly passed to WikiLeaks were hugely embarrassing to the US. Yet he was just one of hundreds of thousands of troops and civil servants with security clearance to access them.

Judging by the contents of his memo, Mr Lew believes further leaks can be prevented by senior staff keeping a closer eye on their employees. However, many security experts who have seen his memo disagree. "This is paranoia, not security," Steven Aftergood, a national security specialist for the Federation of American Scientists, told NBC. "It may be that this is what the administration needs to do to deflect congressional anger [over WikiLeaks], but some of it doesn't make any sense."

Gibbs goes

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary and one of the most visible and forceful advocates for President Obama, is quitting his job to become an outside political adviser.

The change is among the many expected in the coming days as Mr Obama redefines his leadership team to get ready for a more powerful opposition Republican Party.

Mr Gibbs said he would be leaving the White House in February, allowing him to leave the grind of the press secretary's job, make money giving speeches and spend time with his family. It will change the dynamic of the White House, especially with the coming departure of senior adviser David Axelrod. AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
Fans take a selfie with Ed Miliband in Kempston, near Bedford, on Tuesday
election 2015
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Ashdown Group: Accountant - London - £48,000 - 12 month FTC

£40000 - £48000 per annum + bonus + benefits: Ashdown Group: International Acc...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power