It is *never* total
Published on June 7, 2007 By greywar In Current Events

Q: The FBI should be able to stop internal security leaks. True or False?

 

 

A: False.

 

 

     The press (and even the general public occasionally) seems to have problems grasping this concept as seen here:


 

“Officials also must be sure they can detect and prevent such internal threats. This is easier said than done, particularly in a law enforcement agency like the FBI that tends to retreat into a bunker mentality whenever it’s criticized by outsiders. Congress must insist that GAO’s recommendations to beef up internal security are implemented immediately. No excuses.”  -DC Examiner

 


 

     While there are steps that can be taken to reduce accidental spillages of sensitive or classified info there is very little that any agency can do to stop intentional leaks from insiders. All an agency can really do is make it somewhat more onerous to get the info out of the building (and there are real limits to this (see below)) This is why Three Letter Agencies (TLAs) focus instead on pre-hire screening rather than after hire surveillance and enforcement (although they do implement some basics of both).

 

     For instance, if you meet initial job qualifications (ASVAB test result etc) for a position in the U.S. military that would require a security clearance (contrary to popular myth most military personnel do NOT have a clearance of any kind) you must have an appropriate background check performed and passed. This investigation ranges from cursory record checks and searches of federal databases for Secret level clearance to in-depth interviews of past friends, enemies, employers, and potential blackmail sources coupled with multi tiered polygraph exams. After passing this regimen you still only get access to classified information when your job actively has a need to know.

    

     This is done to ensure that TLAs are not hiring large quantities of people who display behavior patterns which lend themselves to espionage or sabotage. Will it screen out all potential spies or saboteurs? Not a chance. Simply not having a criminal record or bad references doesn’t mean a whole lot when the person is only 18-24 or even necessarily for people later in life. There will always be someone who lived a relatively normal life before deciding to sell out their nation or agency.

 

     It is virtually impossible to detect these folks after their initial investigation if they have a change of heart. They need to know and have access to classified information to do their jobs (or else they wouldn’t have it) and this means that it is almost impossible to keep them from stealing it and conveying to other interests.

 

     If they have access to printers they can print it out and take it away. If they use computers they can put it on removable media ad take it away. Don’t allow removable media and they can memorize it or write it down by hand (people still know how to write?) The NSA has seen it all and knows it can’t really be preemptively prevented entirely without truly draconian measures that would necessitate either a large increase in salary (so employees will put up with strip searches, phone monitoring, and cameras in the crapper) or a massive drop in hiring standards to get people who don’t care about the security measures and are simply happy to have a job.

 

     Highly qualified folks tend not to take much in the way of shit. NSA used to do occasional exit searches (just simply glances through your bags) to discourage employees from taking classified out with them and it was largely useless.  Any employee can see the screeners at the door before they get there so would-be spies simply turn around and put in an extra hour until they quit checking or put the documents back in the office.

    

     When the Agency tried to increase the frequency and intensity of searches they immediately ran into complaints from people who don’t want to be patted down and even more complaints that the process turned leaving work into more than an hour of standing in line to be searched.  These people can easily find jobs where they don’t get searched at roughly the same money. Their tolerance for extra shit ~= 0. The government needs them a lot more than they need the government (note this even extends to soldiers).

 

     The problem is not a "bunker mentality" at the FBI the problem is that once you give info to people to work with you have to operate knowing that they are trusted with it. Trusted people will still occasionally go south on you and there is no way (short of Orwellian control) to detect it until after they do so. How can my agency prevent me from telling anyone about all the sensitive information I have memorized or could take away with me? They can't. They have to trust me (which is why I have to have a clearance).

 

     So unless the DC examiner is willing to advocate 7 figure salaries for government employees or has somehow gained knowledge of a highly skilled yet incredibly complacent and cheap workforce they are really just blowing smoke for the sake of griping about agencies they don’t really like.

 

 

 

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Comments
on Jun 07, 2007
i liked that part about the security checks. my wife has some pretty high security clearance...high enough that she really doesn't even like to discuss it in fear of saying something illegal or whatnot. after 9/11, they redid it all. they were goin back to her childhood lookin for dirt. we got calls from people she hadn't seen in 10 or 20 years that wondered why the feds were showing up and asking all these questions about her. the whole process took almost 2 years.

and the other part is true as well. they only are supposed to see things that are germaine to their job. it doesn't always work out that way, but it is the rule and is pretty well followed on the whole.

i know that wasn't the thrust of your argument, but i just wanted to give some input on that and hopefully that will get yer comment ball rollin, lol....
on Jun 07, 2007
If they have access to printers they can print it out and take it away. If they use computers they can put it on removable media ad take it away. Don’t allow removable media and they can memorize it or write it down by hand



or if that doesn't work, they can stuff their jock with em like sandy, lol.
on Jun 07, 2007

r if that doesn't work, they can stuff their jock with em like sandy, lol.

 

Precisely, even body cavity searches aren't 100%.

on Jun 07, 2007

If they have access to printers they can print it out and take it away. If they use computers they can put it on removable media ad take it away. Don’t allow removable media and they can memorize it or write it down by hand

Unfortunately, with thumb drives, the only way to guarantee that is to make the computers dumb terminals.

on Jun 12, 2007
I had a conversation with a Washington Post reporter last summer, and he said that he felt it was the government employee's responsibility to give leaks to the press. Something about whistle-blowing and whatnot... I blew it off because I wasn't exactly speaking to an unbiased source. But it's irritating for me to know that people who literally sign documents promising they will not reveal state secrets for the rest of their lives... turn around and do just that.
on Jun 12, 2007
Something about whistle-blowing and whatnot...


sometimes the 4th estate is the only refuge a whistleblower has is how i would interpret that.
on Jun 13, 2007
And sometimes the fourth estate is the only outlet that will put out information that is unsubstantiated from anyone but an anonymous source with an axe to grind.
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