Let’s review three data points on security clearances. They’ll show that our system of security clearances are increasingly becoming an arbitrary system of control that does more to foster cowed national security employees than to foster actual national security.
We’ve already discussed one of these data points: James Clapper’s decision to add an as-yet undefined question to Intelligence Community polygraphs probing unauthorized (but not authorized) disclosure of classified information.
First, those agencies within the IC that have mandatory lie detector tests will add an unspecified question about “unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
(1) mandating that a question related to unauthorized disclosure of classified information be added to the counterintelligence polygraph used by all intelligence agencies that administer the examination (CIA, DIA, DOE, FBI, NGA, NRO, and NSA).
Not only does this cover just some who might have access to classified information, leaving some agencies, contractors, Congressional employees, and White House employees, not to mention our international intelligence partners, in the clear. But it also brackets off the “authorized” disclosure of classified information.
It’s a bad decision because it doesn’t end the asymmetrical abuse of classified information and it’s a bad decision because polygraphs are unreliable.
But it’s also unreliable because at least one of the IC agencies involved slated for this new question–the National Reconnaissance Office–has already been conducting fishing expeditions during polygraphs to find sensitive information.
The National Reconnaissance Office is so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior that officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses, a McClatchy investigation found.
The disclosures include a wide range of behavior and private thoughts such as drug use, child abuse, suicide attempts, depression and sexual deviancy. The agency, which oversees the nation’s spy satellites, records the sessions that were required for security clearances and stores them in a database.
As McClatchy reports, the NRO pursued such confessions–which are outside the scope of what they’re supposed to ask–even after they were warned to stop.
What’s particularly troubling is that the NRO is not using this information–or not in the most obvious way, by prosecuting those who reveal past crimes. Continue reading