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?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones