from the FAS Project on Government Secrecy
Volume 2015, Issue No. 13
February 18, 2015
Secrecy News Blog: http://fas.org/blogs/secrecy/
NEW DNI GUIDANCE ON POLYGRAPH TESTING AGAINST LEAKS
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper issued guidance this month on polygraph testing for screening of intelligence community personnel. His instructions give particular emphasis to the use of the polygraph for combating unauthorized disclosures of classified information.
Counterintelligence scope polygraph examinations "shall cover the topics of espionage, sabotage, terrorism, unauthorized disclosure or removal of classified information (including to the media), unauthorized or unreported foreign contacts, and deliberate damage to or misuse of U.S. Government information systems or defense systems," the guidance states.
Such examinations "shall specifically include the issue of unauthorized disclosures of classified information during pre-examination explanations by incorporating a definition that explicitly states that an unauthorized disclosure means unauthorized communication or physical transfer of classified information to an unauthorized recipient."
The polygraph administrator is further instructed to explain that an unauthorized recipient is any person without an appropriate clearance or need to know, "including any member of the media."
See Conduct of Polygraph Examinations for Personnel Security Vetting, Intelligence Community Policy Guidance 704.6, February 4, 2015:
The use of polygraph testing to combat leaks has been a recurring theme in security policy for decades. Yet somehow neither leaks nor polygraph tests have gone away.
President Reagan once issued a directive (NSDD 84) to require all government employees to submit polygraph testing as an anti-leak measure.
In response, Secretary of State George P. Shultz famously declared in 1985 that he would quit his job rather than take the test. "The minute in this government I am told that I'm not trusted is the day that I leave," Shultz told reporters.
Having forthrightly declared his position, Secretary Shultz was never compelled to undergo the polygraph test or to resign. "Management through fear and intimidation," he said in 1989, "is not the way to promote honesty and protect security."
From another perspective, the problem with polygraph testing has nothing to do with intimidation but with accuracy and reliability. There is at least a small subset of people who seem unable to "pass" a polygraph exam for reasons that neither they nor their examiners can discern. And there are others, such as the CIA officer and Soviet spy Aldrich Ames, who have been able to pass the polygraph test while in the espionage service of a foreign government.
LEAKS DAMAGED U.S. INTELLIGENCE, OFFICIAL SAYS
Unauthorized disclosures of classified information by Edward Snowden have damaged U.S. intelligence capabilities, National Counterterrorism Center director Nicholas J. Rasmussen told Congress last week.
"Due to the Snowden leaks and other disclosures, terrorists also have a great understanding of how we seek to conduct surveillance including our methods, our tactics and the scope and scale of our efforts. They've altered the ways in which they communicate and this has led to a decrease in collection," Mr. Rasmussen said at a February 12 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.
"We have specific examples which I believe we have shared with the committee and the committee staff in classified session -- specific examples of terrorists who have adopted greater security measures such as using various new types of encryption, terrorists who have dropped or changed email addresses, and terrorists who have simply stopped communicating in ways they had before, in part because they understand how we collected," he said.
This is not terribly persuasive, particularly since Mr. Rasmussen did not specify which leaks resulted in which changes by which terrorists at what cost to U.S. security. Nor is a public statement by an intelligence official before the Senate Intelligence Committee entitled any longer to a presumption of accuracy since the Committee permits errors to stand uncorrected.
Nevertheless, it seems plausible that leaks which had the power to galvanize public debate over the scope of intelligence surveillance might also have had the power to undermine existing collection capabilities, including collection for valid and necessary purposes.
For some of Edward Snowden's partisans and supporters, however, the possibility that his leaks had negative as well as positive consequences involves more complexity than they can tolerate. If Snowden intended to defend constitutional values, as he insists, then how dare anyone suggest that he may have also aided America's enemies, even indirectly?
This sort of complexity does not arise in Laura Poitras's award-winning film Citizenfour about Snowden, as its few critical reviewers have noted.
Many of the documents Snowden disclosed "go far beyond exposures of spying on Americans," wrote Fred Kaplan in a review of the film in Slate. "If Snowden and company wanted to take down an intelligence agency, they should say so. But that has nothing to do with whistleblowing or constitutional rights."
Likewise, wrote George Packer in The New Yorker, "Among the leaked documents are details of foreign-intelligence gathering that do not fall under the heading of unlawful threats to American democracy--what Snowden described as his only concern. [Former NSA official William] Binney, generally a fervent Snowden supporter, told USA Today that Snowden's references to 'hacking into China' went too far: 'So he is transitioning from whistle-blower to a traitor'."
And from Michael Cohen in The Daily Beast: "What is left out of Poitras's highly sympathetic portrayal of Snowden is so much of what we still don't know about him. For example, why did he steal so many documents that have nothing to do with domestic surveillance but rather overseas--and legal--intelligence-gathering operations?"
But for a discussion of Citizenfour that presents no such dissonant, skeptical notes or troublesome opposing views, see the late David Carr's final interview with Snowden, Poitras and Glenn Greenwald.
"How'd you like the movie?" Mr. Carr asked Snowden. "It's incredible," Mr. Snowden affirmed. "I don't think there's any film like it."
Secrecy News is written by Steven Aftergood and published by the Federation of American Scientists.
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