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Posted at 10:18 AM ET, 01/ 5/2011

WikiLeaks prompts government to order detailed security reviews

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:43 p.m. ET
A memo sent this week to government security officials details how they should conduct detailed security reviews of sensitive or classified information as the Obama administration attempts to safeguard against future leaks to the information-sharing Web site WikiLeaks and other news organizations.

Among about 100 questions, the memo asks how agencies are measuring the trustworthiness of employees with access to sensitive information and whether workers must report whenever they have contact with news reporters.

In the wake of an unprecedented document dump that is straining U.S. diplomatic relations in some corners of the world, the administration ordered agencies last month to ensure that unauthorized employees do not get access to sensitive or classified information. The Office of Management and Budget also ordered unauthorized federal employees to steer clear of leaked documents and the document-sharing Web site.

Further instructions sent this week by OMB to top government security officials asks them to review the 100 questions to help assess "what your agency has done or plans to do to address any perceived vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or gaps on automated systems in the post-WikiLeaks environment," according to the memo.

In a nod to the concerns surrounding alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning, the administration wants to know whether agencies measure "trustworthiness" among employees without alienating them, the memo said.

It asks whether psychiatrists or sociologists are used to measure a worker's relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness and whether they consider despondence or grumpiness as a sign of waning trustworthiness.

Such monitoring might have stopped Manning, who is accused of leaking classified videos and documents to a former hacker. Though the military hasn't leveled specific charges against him, officials say Manning had gone through a breakup and been demoted in rank by the Army shortly before leaking the information.

Agencies were also asked to detail how they determine who has access to classified information on automated computer systems and whether all employees are required to report any contacts with news reporters.

The review "was very likely in the aftermath of WikiLeaks," said Sean Moulton, director of federal information policy at OMB Watch, a nonpartisan organization that tracks federal budgetary and regulatory policy.

"It's pretty reasonable for them to at least take a look at the protocols they had in place," Moulton said. But some of the questions asked - including the one regarding contact with reporters - indicates the potential for an unnecessarily severe clampdown on information distribution.

"It's not that the system is massively broken," Moulton said, noting that Manning apparently acted alone.

Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said the ongoing review "takes for granted the existing classification system, which almost everybody agrees is decrepit and broken."

"I really don't see the kind of systemic reform that would protect the real secrets and push everything out into the public domain," Blanton said.

Government transparency advocates have long argued the government unnecessarily protects too much information from public distribution.

The reviews must be completed by Jan. 28, and officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence may visit agencies to inspect the ongoing reviews, according to the memo.

Results of the review are expected to earn intense scrutiny from House Republicans, who are planning to probe whether the administration did enough to prevent WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from receiving and posting the information.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

This item has been updated and corrected.

By Ed O'Keefe  | January 5, 2011; 10:18 AM ET
Categories:  Administration  
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Officials will be visiting to check on progress.....Seems there's an office overstaffed if they have time to do that. Not only does it indicate a waste of resources, the best way to get accurate info is to let each agency respond. If these guys show up and someone infers from their questions/comments that they expect certain answers, that's what they'll get rather than that agency's best effort.

No problem with tightening up access but the are possible solutions posed by at least one of the questions practical. How many psychologists/social workers would have to be hired to monitor all the people with security clearances? What would it cost? -- especially when budgets will be cut??? How intrusive would they have to be to collect info on which to base an opinion? Would someone come under suspicion because of divorce or breakup with a girl/boy friend? How many such examples have there been with no harm to national security? If DoD had simply modified its computers to prevent downloads by individuals, this would not have happened. There's a lot to admire about those who serve in the military but one has to wonder about the bureaucracy that spent hundreds for a single, simple hammer but can't modify a computer to prevent downloads.

Posted by: RichardCollins | January 5, 2011 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Assange and Wikileaks are a convenient scape goat, but Manning and the lax security policies that allowed him to steal the information are the real problem.

I'm glad to see that someone is at least trying to to address the cause of the problem instead of a symptom.

Posted by: shadocat | January 6, 2011 5:32 AM | Report abuse

You know, Bank Data would be so much more interesting that some boring state department cables. The State Department classifies silly stuff. The bank data deals with real money, and how the banks are ripping people off. Release that stuff instead.

Posted by: getjiggly2 | January 7, 2011 10:09 PM | Report abuse

Unfortunately, nothing of much significance or substance will probably be accomplished. Until the commanding officers and seniors are held accountable for their security of their networks and the information resident on them, there will be no real change. Fire a couple of Colonels and SESs then you might see a bit of a change, though it would probably only last as long as the public's attention span lasts (5 mins at best.)

These 'insider threats' are more likely to expand in the near term as the Federal Government and Congress breaks social contracts with its employees and more people become disenchanted with American domestic and foreign policy. The radicalization of American politics WILL eventually reach into the people who run the Government.

Ultimately, you can vet someone all you want and they can be trustworthy and reliable right up to the point they change. The system isn't designed to be continuous. It measures single points in time and then expects that those measurements hold constant until the next time they are checked (generally every 5 years.)

You cannot compel loyalty but you sure can spur disloyalty through bad policies and making scapegoats out of civil servants when the real problem lies with elected and appointed officials.

Its a bit odd that there isn't much media discussion regarding discussions of motivations regarding Manning or others. What is discussed is lamely and superficially painted as 'anti-Americanism' rather than an in-depth and objective assessment. Until people address the underlying motivators for people taking these types of action and work to prevent the perpetuation of these catalysts, then the Government will just be chasing the symptoms and not fixing the cause.

Posted by: liubei | January 8, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

The party responsible for the leaks is Madame Secretary, one of whose duties it is to keep the lid on. She should be canned forthwith, and with her should go the man who appointed her and the Senators who consented to her appointment.
Justice's witchhunt is as ludicrous as the Pope commenting upon, er, THOSE things.

Posted by: phvr38 | January 8, 2011 4:54 PM | Report abuse

This word imports a betraying, treachery, or breach of allegiance.

The Constitution of the United States, Art. III, defines treason against the United States to consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid or comfort. This offence is punished with death. By the same article of the Constitution, no person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court.

Start charging and convicting people of treason who release information that is labeled seceret.

Then when convicted, death penality. Public death penality.

Want to bet the release by these cowards stop?

Posted by: LiberalBasher | January 8, 2011 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Executions will not deter further leaks. The Rosenburgs, real spies, were executed but we still have had scores if not hundreds of spies since then.

Even those spies guilty of exceptionally grave damage to the United States, i.e. the compromise of Top Secret information, since then such as Pollard, Ames, Hansen, etc. have not received a death penalty. Essentially, you are demeaning the gravity of the crimes those real traitors committed to even place Assange and the like in the same category.

That said, if you started to actually prosecute high government officials for treason, such as Dick Cheney, for treason for alleged acts such as the outing of an American clandestine officer, than you might get some people's attention - but probably not. The Obamma Administration has been going after some alleged government leakers of classified information (five to date) but that won't stop the leaks either - especially when they are for political effect like so many in Congress and the Pentagon seek to achieve.

The best you can hope to do is to limit the damage by limiting the amount of information released. The nature of the world is such that people will always seek to steal your secrets, its your responsibility to protect them. Crying foul after you failed your job will not rectify the problem. And trying to seek revenge against those that bested you, well, you just look even more pathetic and impotent.

Posted by: liubei | January 8, 2011 7:27 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: addjian06 | January 8, 2011 8:57 PM | Report abuse

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