U.S. intelligence officials are planning a sweeping system of electronic monitoring that would tap into government, financial and other databases to scan the behavior of many of the 5 million federal employees with secret clearances, current and former officials told The Associated Press.
The system is intended to identify rogue agents, corrupt officials and leakers, and draws on a Defense Department model under development for more than a decade, according to officials and documents reviewed by the AP.
Intelligence officials have long wanted a computerized system that could continuously monitor employees, in part to prevent cases similar to former National Security Agency analyst Edward Snowden. His disclosures exposed secretive U.S. surveillance operations.
An administration review of the government’s security clearance process, due this month, is expected to support continuous monitoring as part of a package of comprehensive changes.
Privacy advocates and government employee union officials expressed concerns that continuous electronic monitoring could intrude into individuals’ private lives, prompt flawed investigations and put sensitive personal data at greater risk. Supporters say the system would have safeguards.
Workers with secret clearances are already required to undergo background checks of their finances and private lives before they are hired and again during periodic re-investigations.
“What we need is a system of continuous evaluation where when someone is in the system and they’re cleared initially, then we have a way of monitoring their behavior, both their electronic behavior on the job as well as off the job,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress last month.
Monitoring of employees at some agencies could begin as early as September and be fully operational across the government by September 2016. The price tag, Clapper said, “is going to be costly.”