Originally published June 27 2012
Afraid of whistleblowers, TSA acquiring technology to spy on its own employees
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) What does it say when an agency is so afraid of what its own employees might say, that it is willing to invest in technology to spy on them to prevent (or, at a minimum, identify) whistleblowers? In this day and age, the Leviathan seems unwilling to stop at anything to protect its growing police state.
According to NextGov, the Transportation Security Administration - that bastion of civil rights and professionalism - top agency officials, stung by recent revelations that the TSA's billion-dollar scanners aren't able to detect small metal objects and other reputation-damaging incidents - are shopping around for a computer program capable of snooping on employees' online activities.
Procurement documents posted online at FedBizOpps.gov, the federal Web site where agencies solicit bids from private firms on a range of items, software and services, say the TSA is concerned about an "insider threat," and as such is "in need of a tool" to "monitor and detect insider threats...at the user host level."
When all else fails, trample the rights of your own employees too
"The scope of this procurement is an enterprise insider threat software package. In order to detect an insider threat, technology is required to monitor and obtain visibility into users' actions. TSA Focused Operations requires a tool that can monitor user activities at the user host level," says the solicitation.
Specifically, the TSA software must be capable of monitoring activities through, among other capabilities:
-- Keystroke monitoring/logging
-- Chart monitoring/logging
-- Email monitoring
-- Network activity monitoring
-- File transfer monitoring
-- Document tracking/monitoring
-- Screenshot capture
"All activities that are being monitored/logged must call back to a central enterprise command infrastructure and transfer its collected data," the solicitation says.
Nice, huh? Now the agency doesn't even trust its own employees - so little that, according to the solicitation, the program the agency eventually adopts must be secret to the employee. "The end user must not have the ability to detect this technology," it says.
Naturally, and right on cue, the TSA defended its action.
"As the agency whose serious responsibility it is to deal with national security, TSA must remain vigilant to safeguard sensitive information in order to secure the nation's transportation systems," said spokesman David A. Castelveter, in a recent statement. "This software is intended to assist in carrying out that mission. This initiative will be used in accordance with all federal laws and will be reserved for specific instances that meet TSA's qualifications for an insider threat."
Legitimate or not - and we're betting not - TSA officials could be setting the agency up for a repeat of a lawsuit filed by employees against the Food and Drug Administration earlier this year for - you guessed it - spying on them. In their suit, employees claimed that the FDA read employee emails and screenshots were gathered from their computers following a complaint some of them lodged with the Office of Special Counsel over agency approval of unsafe medical devices.
History of rank incompetence and cover-up
Still, a raft of bad PR obviously has the TSA on the defensive. Last November, the agency became embroiled in another of its many scandals after a whistleblower accused the agency of hiding her sexual assault, which occurred at the hands of a TSA investigator, by forcing her to sign a document disavowing the incident.
Nilda C. Marugame, a TSA worker at Lihue airport, consequently tried to notify the Assistant Federal Security Director, but she was suspended for three days and then forced to sign a statement saying the sexual advances were consensual.
"She says she is 'at least the third woman to report unwelcome sexual advances' from the same man, and that all of his victims were retaliated against with suspension or threats of termination," says a report about her complaint by Courthouse News Service.
Sexual deviancy - along with rank incompetence, violations of the law and a sound trampling of the Constitution - are all characteristics of this rogue agency, which now appears willing to do anything to hide ineptitude, including spying on its own.
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