Former FBI agent Coleen Rowley was one of three whistleblowers chosen as persons of the year by TIME magazine in 2002
By Linda Lewis and Coleen Rowley
As Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano recently admitted, the notion of "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here" is so totally passé. (She didn't explain, of course why, if Bush's old rationale is no longer valid, we still keep the wars going on Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Iraq, etc.) Her statement, however, did underscore that a significant portion of the 854,000 intelligence operatives, analysts, agents, private contractors and consultants now operating in "Top Secret America" have already turned the "war on terror" inward, targeting their fellow Americans, no longer focusing just on Muslims and mosques but on infiltrating peace, environmental, civil liberties and social justice groups.
Even more ludicrously off-base, the White House and its paranoid Barney Fife bureaucrats have set their gun sights on the "insider threat" lurking within Top Secret America itself. Under the guise of sealing government from WikiLeaks, OMB Director Jacob J. Lew issued a memo on January 3 to all government agencies providing pages of suggested security procedures and checklists and also recommending "all agencies institute an insider threat detection awareness education and training program" to "gauge trustworthiness" of their government employees. Some of OMB's suggestions:
• Are you practicing "security sentinel" or "co-pilot" policing practices?
• What metrics do you use to measure "trustworthiness" without alienating employees?
• Do you use psychiatrist and sociologist to measure:
-Relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness?
-Despondence and grumpiness as a means to gauge waning trustworthiness?
What's not new: the use and abuse of security clearances
Security clearance laws have long been used by federal agencies as an end run around laws that protect civil servants, whistleblowers, minorities and persons with disabilities from discrimination and reprisal. Individuals who exercise their rights under those laws frequently have become targets of reprisal that purposely seeks to create anxiety, pain and depression (conditions that also may accompany physical disabilities). The emotional trauma that employees experience may then be used as a pretext for requiring a psychiatric evaluation that may unfairly result in the loss of their clearance and subsequent termination for not having the clearance required by their position. Evaluators hired by the government may lack suitable qualifications and are themselves vulnerable to reprisal if they fail to provide the diagnosis desired by the agency.
It's difficult to see how a program that urges agencies to evaluate employees' "trustworthiness" based on their level of "happiness," "despondence," and "grumpiness" will not only have an adverse impact on whistleblowers, minorities and persons with disabilities but on the general workforce. Forcing psychiatric assessments of those employees will further stigmatize groups that already struggle for acceptance, and will destroy the careers of some of the nation's brightest and best public servants.
A good example of the counter-productiveness of the common tendency to shoot the messenger was the FBI Laboratory's attempted destruction of FBI Chemist Frederic Whitehurst in the mid-1990s for having the audacity to question why his FBI employer refused to seek proper scientific accreditation for an operation they simultaneously vaunted as the "foremost forensic lab" in the country. Whitehurst rocked the boat too when he challenged the cherished FBI tradition that higher-level FBI officials in the chain of command should not be re-writing any scientific reports of their (often better scientifically-qualified) underlings in order to better favor prosecutive goals. It took years but Whitehurst was eventually vindicated, the scientific testing/report writing was corrected and the FBI Lab ended up receiving proper accreditation, making its work product more credible. Hoover's old ways of operating the FBI lab now seem nutty, but this wasn't the case at the time of Whitehurst's challenges. Back then, Whitehurst was made to seem the disloyal nut. He was suspended, escorted from the FBI building and stripped of his gun and gold badge.
The impact of security clearance policies extends far beyond agencies like the FBI and CIA. Since the 9/11 attacks, agencies with regulatory functions--the Food Safety and Inspection Agency (FSIS), for example--have issued increasing numbers of security clearances, whether the position involves homeland security or meat inspection.
The OMB memo does not describe what happens when an employee has been labeled an "insider threat" for failing the happiness test. Does the agency pull the employee's clearance on such thin evidence? The Executive Order that provides guidance for adjudication of security clearances does not mention a requisite number of smiles. Or, will the employee be jailed without due process, as the government now does with those it deems outsider threats? Perhaps "Positive Psychology" Guru Martin Seligman (nicknamed "Dr. Happy") will be able to sell a civilian form of his $125 million "Comprehensive Soldier Fitness" (CSF) "holistic testing" and "learned optimism-resiliency" training to the rest of the US Government. What kind of government will we have when all this pixie dust has settled? Will we have a diverse and creative workforce, courageously challenging complacency and corruption? Or will we have a Stepford workforce where smiling obedience is the only skill that matters?
January 28th, 2014
In the State of the Union address tonight, President Obama is going to call for a national minimum wage of $10.10. Then in their response ...
January 21st, 2014
My New Year's Day op-ed in the New York Times seems to have kickstarted a discussion about how to make Obamacare better. I hope you ...
December 18th, 2013
This morning it was announced by the Library of Congress and the National Film Preservation Board that my first film, 'Roger & Me', has been ...
December 14th, 2013
[View the story "Michael Moore Tweets on Eve of Newtown Anniversay" on Storify]
November 9th, 2013
Click here for this week's full schedule for the State Theatre and Bijou by the Bay in Traverse City, Michigan. The day has arrived. For ...
September 10th, 2013
[View the story "John Kerry's Accidental Diplomacy" on Storify]
July 30th, 2013
Today Bradley Manning was convicted on 20 of 22 counts, including violating the Espionage Act, releasing classified information and disobeying orders. That's the bad news. ...
September 11th, 2010
OpenMike 9/11/10 Michael Moore's daily blog I am opposed to the building of the "mosque" two blocks from Ground Zero. I want it built on ...
December 14th, 2010
Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that ...
May 12th, 2011
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we're not like them. We're Americans. We roll different." – Michael Moore in ...
November 22nd, 2011
This past weekend I participated in a four-hour meeting of Occupy Wall Street activists whose job it is to come up with the vision and ...
September 22nd, 2011
I encourage everyone I know to never travel to Georgia, never buy anything made in Georgia, to never do business in Georgia. I will ask ...
December 16th, 2010
Dear Swedish Government: Hi there -- or as you all say, Hallå! You know, all of us here in the U.S. love your country. Your ...
November 2nd, 2010
This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That -- and where to go from ...