Citing “law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case,” Michael Isikoff reports that the government has identified “the second leaker” — a source of information on drone targeting and terrorist watchlisting for The Intercept. The FBI has identified an employee of a federal contracting firm suspected of being the so-called second leaker who turned over sensitive documents about the US government’s terrorist watch list to a journalist closely associated with ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources who have been briefed on the case. The FBI recently executed a search of the suspect’s home, and federal prosecutors in Northern Virginia have opened up a criminal investigation into the matter, the sources said. Because it raises questions about whether the Administration has the “appetite” to prosecute another source for journalists, the article seems designed to generate pressure to do just that — to get Congress (among others) to demand that the Justice Department prosecute this source. But the case has also generated concerns among some within the US intelligence communitythat top Justice Department officials — stung by criticism that they have been overzealous in pursuing leak cases — may now be more reluctant to bring criminal charges involving unauthorized disclosures to the news media, the sources said. One source, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter, said there was concern “there is no longer an appetite at Justice for these cases.” While Isikoff outlines the content of The Intercept’s watchlist story, he leaves out several details that may make DOJ less interested in prosecuting this leak. First, two courts have ruled that people on the No Fly List receive due process regarding their status. Significantly, in June, an Oregon judge presiding over an ACLU lawsuit on behalf of 13 people on the No Fly List ruled the process unconstitutional and ordered the government to come up with a more meaningful redress system for people on the list. In [the] ruling, the court agreed with us that the redress procedure “falls far short of satisfying the requirements of due process,” and is “wholly ineffective.” The court warned that “without proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, an individual could be doomed to indefinite placement on the No-Fly List” – precisely what has happened to our clients and many others on the List. [snip] The court ultimately concluded that the lack of any meaningful opportunity to contest their placement on the No Fly List violates our clients’ constitutional due process rights. The government now has to come up with a new process that satisfies the Constitution, including officially telling our clients whether they are on the No Fly List, providing reasons for their inclusion, and giving them the ability to contest the basis for that inclusion before a judge. Earlier this month, 7 of ACLU’s clients in that lawsuit got cleared to fly. The government will have to start providing ACLU’s other clients some kind of redress process by January. Whatever process the government develops going forward, it will bring more transparency to precisely the system disclosed in The Intercept’s watchlisting story. At the same time, a number of other disclosures have raised questions about the watchlist. Most notably, Dick Cheney’s biographer, Stephen Hayes, briefly got put on the Selectee watchlist requiring additional screening; he believes that’s because he booked a one-way flight to Turkey for a Mediterranean cruise. Hayes is probably correct: as the document disclosed by The Intercept make clear, the government may, in fact, watchlist a person for “Travel for no known lawful or legitimate purpose to a locus of TERRORIST ACTIVITY.” Just this week, Hayes announced he appears to have gotten off the list. Additionally, senior officials have had to explain that the numbers — in the hundreds or even thousands — routinely offered for the number of Americans who have traveled to fight with ISIL are inflated for precisely that reason: anyone who travels to Turkey without a known reason gets watchlisted — and counted as an ISIL fighter. In reality, there are maybe 20 to 30 Americans fighting in Syria. Perhaps most amusing is the story behind the “Jetsetting Terrorist,” a blog started in June. As Forbes recently revealed, the “terrorist” is Peter Young, an animal rights activist convicted of a misdemeanor for freeing minks in 3 states in 1997. Young’s blog documents the he gets as a frequent flier on the Selectee treatment, including how he invoked his Selectee status to jump to the front of a very long TSA security line. Young has also provided more significant details (details that mirror those in the leaked document), such as that TSA Agents have to call the FBI every time a selectee flies. The point is, many more details about the No Fly and Selectee processes will be coming out in upcoming months — both through the ACLU lawsuit and related new redress policy and through Young’s blog (unless blogging about being a Selectee gets one removed from the list!). Those details will be coming out against the absurd background of Cheney’s biographer being branded a terrorist because he took a Mediterranean cruise. Not only will aspects of these lists become less justifiable, but they will become public, one way or another. That likely provides another reason why DOJ may hesitate to charge The Intercept’s alleged source: by the time any case went to trial, the alleged source’s disclosures would look banal by comparison. Any such prosecution would look like overkill. That may well be true. But it appears that those requesting and carrying out the investigation want to push for precisely that kind of overkill.
Former employees at Hanford, the country’s most contaminated nuclear waste site, discuss its disturbing safety culture
Whistleblower: I fear for America and civilization’s future if my concerns continue to be stonewalled by President Obama and DOE Secretary Moniz. Our federal government is too often failing in its duty to protect the health, safety, security and welfare of America. Why? Because the system to regulate the management culture in federal agencies is broken. Why? Because of decades-long, compounded, continuing, law-breaking in two tiny, obscure, federal agencies, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Why? Because despite their tiny size and obscurity, they have essential responsibilities for regulating the management culture in every federal agency, including government corporations as the Tennessee Valley Authority. Why? That is the way Congress wrote the law, the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978. Why? Two reasons: 1) Congress wanted a more uniform system for regulating the management culture in almost 300 federal agencies, and 2) Congress knew better that trust agencies to self-regulate their management culture.
Given recent concerns over the imminently expanding robotic workforce, a simple solution to ease this apprehension is to employ robots for jobs humans would gladly surrender. One job in particular not only fits this description, but is also ideally suited for robots (or, in many cases, disembodied algorithms), and has real consequences for saving money as well as human lives: whistle-blowing. “Whistle-blower” does not currently constitute an actual job for which one can apply with a resume, but given recent crises at General Motors, the National Security Agency, and banks like BNP Paribas, one could argue it should. Who would want such a job though? Whistle-blowers in these cases reported wrongdoing out of personal responsibility rather than professional duty, but such brave souls are rare—and for good reason: whistle-blowing tends to come at an extreme personal cost. One study examined 230 cases of whistle-blowing on corporate fraud and found that 82 percent of these cases ended poorly for named whistle-blowers. They were fired, they quit under duress, or they returned to significantly altered job duties. Another report suggests a rise in physical violence in response to workplace whistle-blowing, and disdain for whistle-blowers is also reflected in familiar, derogatory labels such as rat, snitch, tattletale. When in 2007, a worker at a California Toyota plant that produced the Tacoma pickup truck accused managers of downgrading and ignoring defects, her bosses demoted her and questioned her mental health. Just last week, Toyota recalled 790,000 Tacoma pickups because of defects. Another recent court case illustrates the whistle-blower’s plight. Dan Harman, a former guardrail installer for Trinity Industries accused Trinity of cutting costs by intentionally installing cheaper guardrails that mangled the cars they were supposed to cushion. A recent study of these guardrails suggested that this new design was 1.36 times more likely to produce an injury and 2.82 times more likely to produce a fatality than the previous design. Trinity responded to Harman by accusing Harman of seeking revenge over a previous patent-infringement skirmish between the two, and has sued Harman twice for defamation. Meanwhile, the judge in the present case has declared a mistrial over speculation that Trinity intimidated a second would-be whistle-blower from appearing as a witness. A similarly bleak narrative followed GM’s massive car recall over a deadly ignition defect, as details emerged that GM had silenced employees like Courtland Kelley, who raised safety concerns as far back as 2002. GM first ignored Kelley’s concerns, then bullying him, and banishing him to an undesirable role with no real responsibility. When Kelley filed a whistle-blower’s suit against GM, Kelley said he “felt morally responsible” to voice potentially lethal safety concerns, but when GM’s lawyer asked him specifically whether raising such concerns was “part of your job description,” Kelley could only respond, “No.” As the Trinity and GM circumstances illustrate, even when human lives are at stake, whistle-blowers often face resistance and confrontation. Kelley’s case in particular raises the question, what if whistle-blowing was part of one’s job description? What if every organization, particularly those in highly regulated industries, explicitly created a whistle-blower position? The job seems essential, yet applicants might be scant and coworkers might view them similarly to the childhood schoolmate who reminds the teacher about the homework assignment. The position’s social, reputational, and emotional risks thus make whistle-blower the perfect job for a robot. Robots—and algorithms—largely lack the “hot” social and emotional attributes that commonly (and, often, unfairly) litter portrayals of many whistle-blowers—self-interest, revenge, spite, disloyalty, betrayal, and resentment. At the same time, robots are proficient at “cold” skills necessary for diligent evaluation and inspection of organizational errors—calculation, routinization, automation, and consistency. When human colleagues raise questions about improper safety precautions, fraudulent financial behavior, or governmental abuse of resources, we ponder their motives, which then color our interpretation of the issues they raise. Computers, however, cannot have motives. They cannot be self-interested, disgruntled, or disloyal (if we don’t program them to be that way), and therefore they offer a more objective eye for potential organizational violations. We trust Microsoft Word’s spellcheck to instruct us on word hyphenation whereas we might view a human editor’s same instruction as meddling or conceited. We abide by our car’s beeping seatbelt alarms to buckle up whereas we might view the same suggestion from a family member as overbearing. It is not far-fetched to imagine humans would also respond more favorably to a computer specifically designed to identify organizational failures than to a human identifying the same issues. Robotic whistle-blowers could identify the types of safety defects that plague the car industry (much safety inspection is already automated) whereas others could be deployed to the banking industry to identify financial irregularities such as mortgage defects. For automobiles, already machines can effectively examine braking, steering, and suspension. The robotic whistle-blower would simply have the added feature of automatically reporting to an authority if particular thresholds for safety are not met (rather than simply displaying information for any human to interpret at will). Similar technologies and computer programs could be employed in the financial industry to scan mortgage applications for quirks (such as a mortgage given to a dishwasher claiming a $500,000 yearly income) and automatically alert executives when such defects are detected. Rather than encounter backlash, software-based whistle-blowers might bring relief to human employees from subordinates that lack job security to CEOs required to sign off on quarterly financial statements. Outsourcing whistle-blowing to automatons could alleviate the burden of admitting wrongdoing, speaking truth to power, or navigating thorny reputational dilemmas within one’s organization. Of course, one could always “power off” the software, but that procedure too could be automated, to send an email to the company board members (or a tweet to the public) announcing that someone has pulled the plug. More likely, however, organizations would embrace robotic whistle-blowers as colleagues that both contribute to human consumers’ well-being and protect human employees from the ethical entanglements associated with reporting wrongdoing. This article was originally published at http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/why-robots-could-be-awesome-whistleblowers/381216/