‘Insider Threat’ Program: Hundred Thousand Pentagon Personnel Under Total Surveillance

At least a hundred thousand military, civilian, and contractor personnel at the Defense Department have been subjected to a “continuous evaluation” or total surveillance of their electronic activities and communications. The surveillance is part of the department’s “Insider Threat” program and raises concerns about the extent to which whistleblower communications are being intercepted.

According to a 2015 report to Congress obtained by Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News, “Multiple pilots and concept demonstrations using ‘push’ and ‘pull’ capabilities to conduct continuous evaluation” have been used to monitor personnel with access to classified information.

“Pull” capabilities refers to an Automated Continuing System (ACES), which conducts “point-in-time records checks” and “pulls” data from “trusted data sources.” “Push” capabilities refers to an ACES Next Generation system, which automatically pushes relevant updated information to the system without additional requests for data.

The total surveillance of personnel with access to classified information makes it possible to conduct “insider threat analyses” of “law enforcement, personnel security, human resources, counterintelligence, physical security, network behavior monitoring, and cybersecurity activities,” according to the report to Congress.

There is only one small mention of the issue of privacy and civil liberties in the report. It relates to the issue of having experts who will help the “senior agency official” in charge of “insider threat detection and prevention.” One of the experts is to advise on “privacy and civil liberties” concerns related to information technology, data analysis, and systems engineering. Beyond that, it does not appear the Defense Department believes total surveillance of personnel raises any constitutional questions.

As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has previously described, the system of “continuous evaluation” is designed to monitor “electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job.” Clapper expected the “Insider Threat” program would have six or seven data streams by September 2016, which would be relied upon to detect potential threats.

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