The Obama Administration has left President-Elect Donald Trump a sobering array of options to deter journalists and whistleblower from going public with information it wants to keep secret—or to punish them for doing so—notes Tim Mak in The Daily Beast.
For nearly eight years, President Obama massively expanded his authority on national security issues: on the prosecution of whistleblowers, secret surveillance courts, wars without congressional authorization, and drone campaigns without public oversight. During this time the left, with the exception of some civil liberties groups, remained largely silent.
But now this entire apparatus is being handed over to Donald Trump, a president with a penchant for authoritarianism, who will no doubt point to Obama as precedent to justify the continuation, and perhaps broadening, of these national security excesses.
The article mentions most of the Obama mechanisms providing precedent for aggressive secrecy controls, but does not mention the Insider Threat program in which the national security agencies are now preemptively training internal counterintelligence agents to look for and detect potential leakers of information.
The program was reported by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News blog, who commented that it
was developed by the Obama Administration in order to protect against actions by government employees who would harm the security of the nation. But under the rubric of insider threats, the policy subsumes the seemingly disparate acts of spies, terrorists, and those who leak classified information.
The insider threat is defined as “the threat that an insider will use his/her authorized access, wittingly or unwittingly, to do harm to the security of the United States. This threat can include damage to the United States through espionage, terrorism, [or] unauthorized disclosure of national security information,” according to the newly disclosed National Insider Threat Policy, issued in November 2012.
One of the implications of aggregating spies, terrorists and leakers in a single category is that the nation’s spy-hunters and counterterrorism specialists can now be trained upon those who are suspected of leaking classified information.
Pinpointing and dealing with threatening insiders—to some extent, well overdue— became a high priority for the Obama national security apparatus after Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing disclosures of a fair number of classified global surveillance programs of citizens in the United States, many run by the National Security Agency in cooperation with the signals intelligence agencies of the world’s four other English-speaking nations.
Snowden, charged with violations of the Espionage Act, has been given temporary refuge in Russia. From an undisclosed location there now, he says he believes such indiscriminate surveillance, supposedly abandoned when exposed, will resume full tilt in the Trump administration. And Trump has said that as president he would see to it that the Russians turn over Snowden to U.S. authorities. As he put it to CNN in July, “If I’m president, Putin says ‘hey, boom — you’re gone’ — I guarantee you that.”