The U.S. government has been quietly investigating thousands of employees who work with sensitive intelligence information, with the belief that some of them have ties to terrorist organizations.
According to a classified document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to the Washington Post, the CIA claims one out of every five job seekers had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections.” The terrorist organizations cited the most in the report were Hamas, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
After inspecting trillions of employee keystrokes while at work, the NSA scheduled at least 4,000 probes of potentially suspicious or abnormal staff activity, the Post reported. The behavior that triggered these probes include staff members downloading multiple documents or accessing classified databases not usually used during work, according to people familiar with the software that monitors employee activity.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said “in FY 2013, NSA planned to initiate 4,000 re-investigations on civilian employees to reduce the potential of an insider compromise of sensitive information and missions.”
“Periodic re-investigations are conducted as one due-diligence component of our multifaceted insider threat program,” the release continued.
Representatives from the CIA said the number of employees with ties to terrorist networks was “small”, but didn’t reveal the number or the reasons for the suspicions.
“Over the last several years, a small subset of CIA’s total job applicants were flagged due to various problems or issues,” said a CIA official in the Post, who wanted to be anonymous. “During this period, one in five of that small subset were found to have significant connections to hostile intelligence services and or terrorist groups.”
This multi-million dollar campaign has had numerous delays and sporadic implementation across agencies, according to the classified budget records. Plus, it never detected Edward Snowden’s copying of classified documents across the NSA.
The new findings are in line with the efforts of the “Insider Threat Task Force”, which was created to deter, detect, and mitigate insider threats. That program has been criticized due to the stipulation of having managers and employees of federal agencies monitor and report their co-workers for “indicators” such as stress, divorce and financial problems.