FDL’s Gosztola on the Institutional & Political Suppression of the Free Flow of Information

fdl1As always Fire Dog Lake’s Kevin Gosztola is on top of the latest news, developments and implications involving government whistleblowers and transparency. Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Gosztola’s latest article:

For over a month now, members of Congress have been engaged in a bipartisan offensive against “leaks.” The offensive was launched after details on Obama’s “kill list,” cyber warfare against Iran and the CIA underwear bomb plot sting operation in Yemen became public information. The offensive yielded the appointment by Attorney General Eric Holder of two US attorneys to investigate two of the “leaks” (no attorney was appointed to investigate how details on a covert drone program were released) yet this has not satisfied politicians and Congress people from both the Democratic and Republican Party in the US continue to introduce and speak out in favor of proposals to clamp down on the free flow of information.

On July 11, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security, chaired by Rep. George Sensenbrenner, examined the “leaks” and discussed the revision of laws to make it possible to prosecute journalists [video here]. Sensenbrenner suggested in the “next session” of Congress the committee should “revamp the Espionage Act” to address “over-classification of government information and create a standard of liability for those who leak classified information to someone without a security clearance.”

fdl2The second half of the article goes into the latest involving NRO whistleblower Mark Philips who has exposed how the agency has been abusing polygraph tests in pursuit of personal  information unrelated to counterintelligence issues:

He filed a complaint with the Pentagon Inspector General (IG) that included a chart showing his job performance in comparison to 14 other polygraph examiners. Forty percent of all admissions during polygraph tests had revealed “lifestyle” or personal information.

Phillips explains polygraph examiners are only to conduct counterintelligence-scope polygraph tests when examining employees or job applicants. They are expressly prohibited from actively pursuing what is called lifestyle information outside of the scope of the test, such as details on deviant/criminal sexual behavior, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, serious criminal activity, unexplained wealth, financial irresponsibility, personal conduct-related behaviors that “call into question the examinee’s trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information and psychological conditions.” They are only to pursue personal information if admissions are made “spontaneously,” however, the statistics show the collection of personal information is not spontaneous.

The routine violation of procedure is incentivized with bonuses and positive performance reviews. Also, McClatchy reported, “Those who confess to serious offenses aren’t always criminally prosecuted even when child molestation is involved.”

Phillips decided he did not want to participate in a program that strayed from only asking “examinees” about espionage, terrorism, sabotage or sharing classified information without proper authorization. According to McClatchy, he was searched for policies and found the NRO “had agreed to follow Pentagon polygraph rules.” He argued to top agency officials that tests had to focus on matters of national security. Officials contended they “relied on the same legal authorities as the CIA” and “lifestyle tests” were permissible. Phillips did not quit. He contacted “at least 10 officials within the agency and the Pentagon,” including an Air Force Manager. He expressed criticism openly to “supervisors and colleagues.”

Then came the retaliation. His performance reviews included the following criticism: “Instead of spending time trying to improve his information collection skills, Mr. Phillips has spent an inordinate amount of time documenting, making complaints and arguing why he believes our program is collecting information in violation of (Pentagon) regulations.” His polygraph sessions were observed by NRO officials, who Phillips believed were trying to catch him in a mistake. He was called “insubordinate” and “lazy.” Finally, when the agency concluded a “legal review” of his “assertions” in April and concluded there was “no merit in his complaints,” he knew he could not remain an employee and resigned at the end of May.

And here are my comments on the case provided to Mr. Gosztola:

Sibel Edmonds, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) whistleblower, told Firedoglake in reaction to Phillips’ case, “For many years, with its reliability and accuracy widely disputed, the polygraph has been used by our government agencies for nefarious purposes- as a blackmail and witch hunt tool. We should support and be thankful for whistleblowers like Mr. Philips for opening our eyes and functioning as watchdogs on our government agencies.” She noted in her case the FBI “took the liberty of administering a polygraph and questioning me on any contact and any disclosures I might have made to the United States Congress.” And noted the timing of Phillips’ disclosure couldn’t have been more important, considering that only last month Director of National Intelligence James Clapper announced the government was expanding its use of the polygraph to expose federal employees who leak classified information to the media.”

“Under this new rule the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) can direct even ‘suspected’ leakers to submit to a polygraph test to be questioned about ‘possible’ unauthorized disclosures,” explained Edmonds. “In a nation truly governed by its Constitution, Mark Philips would have been applauded for exposing an extremely dangerous and to a large degree illegal tactic employed by its government to intimidate, silence, and cover up. Obviously we are not inhabitants of such a nation.”

I encourage you to go to FDL and read the entire article.


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Comments

  1. avatar Hal 9000 says:

    Polygraph examiners

    “are expressly prohibited from actively pursuing what is called lifestyle information outside of the scope of the test, such as details on deviant/criminal sexual behavior, alcohol abuse, illicit drug use, serious criminal activity, unexplained wealth, financial irresponsibility, personal conduct-related behaviors that “call into question the examinee’s trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information and psychological conditions.”

    But they do it anyway, and are rewarded for doing so. I’m curious whether the disclosure of such activities in the applicants’ past actually leads to rejection of the applicants. That is, is such behavior considered a negative or a positive by those doing the hiring? Furthermore. I wonder how Mr. Phillips’ superiors would fare under this type of questioning during a polygraph test.

  2. @Hal 9000: Your question reminds me of the film Parallax View:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kyjK214s-4&w=420&h=315

  3. The Parallax View (8/10) Movie CLIP – Recruitment Test (1974) HD:

    [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hN952f_jn8E&w=560&h=315

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