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Fed Goes Hunting For Malcontents 193

snydeq writes "The wake of State Department document leaks to WikiLeaks may have the unhappy rousted from government agencies' 'privileged insiders' ranks, thanks to a recent memo from the US OMB asking agencies to spell out their strategies for minimizing insider risk. 'It's likely that federal contractors and government suppliers will also find themselves responding to this list of questions (PDF) and the central issue of preventing the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive and classified materials. In a key section of the memo, the OMB requests information on whether organizations are measuring the "trustworthiness" of their employees and whether they use a psychiatrist or sociologist to measure the unhappiness of an employee as a measure of trustworthiness.'"
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Fed Goes Hunting For Malcontents

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  • by dkleinsc ( 563838 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:49AM (#34876644) Homepage

    It's not like this sort of thing hasn't been tried before []. I'm sure it will work about as well now as it did then.

    • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:56AM (#34876714) Homepage

      That's the US Government's motto: "If it worked the first time, you didn't fuck it up enough."

      • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 ) <> on Friday January 14, 2011 @01:23PM (#34879852)

        The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed from one generation to the next, says that when you discover you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount. However, our government entities seem to think other factors must be taken into consideration and other strategies often have to be tried with dead horses, including the following:

        1. Buy a stronger whip.

        2. Change riders.

        3. Threaten the horse with termination.

        4. Appoint a committee to study the horse.

        5. Arrange to visit other sites to see how they ride dead horses.

        6. Lower the standards so that dead horses can be included.

        7. Appoint an intervention team to reanimate the dead horse.

        8. Create a training session to increase the rider’s load share.

        9. Reclassify the dead horse as “living impaired”.

        10. Change the form so that it reads “This horse is not dead.”

        11. Hire outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

        12. Harness several dead horses together for increased speed.

        13. Donate the dead horse to a recognized charity, thereby deducting its full original cost.

        14. Provide additional funding to increase the horse’s performance.

        15. Do a time-management study to see if lighter riders would improve productivity.

        16. Purchase an after-market product to make dead horses run faster.

        17. Declare that a dead horse has lower overhead and therefore performs better.

        18. Form a quality focus group to find profitable uses for dead horses.

        19. Rewrite the expected performance requirements for horses.

        20. Promote the dead horse to a supervisory position.

    • Shhhh... You're interrupting The X-Factor!
      • Would anything useful be accomplished by those people even without bread and circuses such as the aforementioned TV program?
        I have a feeling many people would be sheep anyway, so you might as well let the sheep enjoy themselves.
        Those who are not sheep could have the capacity to better handle the experience/impact of the bread and circuses.
        P.S. Rihanna doing What's My Name on the Season 7 final did not bother me. At all. :P

    • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:18AM (#34876946)

      Actually, it has been tried several times before. It's part of the reason that the federal workforce as a rule have traditionally been so paranoid, rule/regulation obsessed, focused heavily on protocol, reluctant to change or innovate, etc. When you're walking on eggshells, no one wants to be the one hopping. It makes for a bureaucracy that's hopelessly mired in CYA (Cover Your Ass) politics.

      Once again, in trying to improve government, they'll only make it more ineffective--and make it even less attractive to any real talent. The vets who spend all day covering their asses will just hunker down and hide, and the innovators who are making waves will be driven out.

      • Once again, in trying to improve government, they'll only make it more ineffective

        Attempting to make sure their crimes and schemes go unnoticed is NOT an improvement to government.

    • []

      I recommend we start a fund to send those plaques to any department even thinking about implementing this.

  • Bad Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Advocatus Diaboli ( 1627651 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:52AM (#34876670)
    Governing systems without implicit trust of the vast majority of its employees are disasters waiting to happen.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Exactly that. If you treat me with implicit trust, I have an obligation to be worthy of it. If you don't, I don't owe a damn thing, and you may not get anything more than what you can make me do, which is inevitably a lot less than i would have done on my own.

    • It's simply finding out who is not happy. Thegovernment trusts a large majority of ti's employees, and a vast majority of the employees trust there employeer.

      And group of people goes through this, whether sits a corporation or a government agency. Something happens, the organization responds, things get better, then something happens.

      It's jsut part of have a lot of humans working together.

      Usually, the government does it far more reasonably and productive then corporation.

      Naturally the government is actually

      • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @11:30AM (#34878006) Journal

        And what are they going to do when they find unhappy employees? Are they going to find out why they are unhappy and see what they are going to do to help? Or are they going to fire them? If it's the latter, then we've got unhappy employees with an incentive to lie to keep their jobs. Now you *can't* trust your employees anymore.

        • And what are they going to do when they find unhappy employees?

          Happiness is mandatory. Trust the Computer!

          Your mission, PET-R-GUN, involves a bit of defective work. You and your team of troubleshooters are to locate all of the unhappy employees working in Federal Complex!

          Are they going to find out why they are unhappy and see what they are going to do to help? Or are they going to fire them?

          Unhappy employees are to be fired On. which basis they're to be fried is up to you.

          Note: Any typographical e

    • Governing systems without implicit trust of the vast majority of its employees are disasters waiting to happen.

      The question is how vast? If they have the trust of (all - 1) of their employees leaks will happen.

      • by BobMcD ( 601576 )

        So design the system to operate with as few secrets as humanly possible, and brace for the rest.

        People are untrustworthy by their very nature.

  • by wjousts ( 1529427 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:54AM (#34876686)
    I hope they are also going to be looking for ne'er do wells?
    • by Pojut ( 1027544 )

      Can't forget about the hooligans...they're the ones causing all the ruckus (presumably, down at the docks.)

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) *

      I hope they are also going to be looking for ne'er do wells?

      "Malcontents" and "ne'er do wells"? Jesus Christ, this is America. The line forms over here.

  • by Lazareth ( 1756336 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:54AM (#34876696)

    Insufficient happiness will be punished by termination.

  • by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @09:55AM (#34876708) Journal

    Maybe they should borrow some of these [] from the Japanese!

  • This is going to end badly for us all. Bureaucrats should be hired and fired based on their ability, not some arbitrary reactionary bloodletting done by party hacks.

    • Bureaucrats should be hired and fired based on their ability

      Are people at your company hired and fired "based on their ability"?

      Are they promoted "based on their ability"?

      • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
        He said "should"

        Of course, the way things "should" be done, and the way they "are" done seldom match in most workplaces.
        Especially in larger workplaces, like government and corporations.
  • by sheepofblue ( 1106227 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:00AM (#34876756)

    They are ignoring the real problem. Why did this guy have access to all of that? Why was the data not walled off some? Seems he had the ability to access and download data that was irrelevant for his job and THAT was the issue that made this such a problem.

  • Ob AI Koan (Score:5, Funny)

    by rlp ( 11898 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:04AM (#34876804)

    A disciple of another sect once came to Drescher as he was eating his morning meal.

    "I would like to give you this personality test" said the outsider, "because I wish you to be happy."

    Drescher took the paper that was offered to him and put it in the toaster, saying "I wish the toaster to be happy, too."

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:05AM (#34876812) Homepage

    "Malcontents" are bred and created through bad, illegal, immoral or otherwise questionable behavior of players in government industry. That's why we call them "whistle blowers" when the public needs to know. They aren't "whistle blowers" when you seek to get rid of them though... they are malcontents, party-poopers or even "terrorists!"

    This is and will be a witch hunt, however. Well meaning people who believe in the function and purpose of our government who haven't yet accepted that there is corruption beyond repair, are now to be pursued, persecuted and ejected from public service to better ensure that their dirty games can continue uninterrupted.

    • by Magada ( 741361 )

      Hopefully, yes. Then they will have even more reason to be malcontent, but no more illusions about fixing the system from within. It's a win-win, see?

  • My hope is that the psychiatrist or sociologist comes in, and measures the employees...

    Boss: "Are they unhappy?"
    Psych: "Yes!"
    Boss: "Why?"
    Psych: "The problem mainly seems to be dissatisfaction with the government"
    Boss: "Ok, let the government know that all we need to do to prevent security breaches and minimize insider risk is to have an open, effective government. Problem solved!"

    • Re:Happy Workers! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) * on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:57AM (#34877478) Journal

      "The problem mainly seems to be dissatisfaction with the government"

      Tell them to stop spending so much time watching Fox News.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "The problem mainly seems to be dissatisfaction with the government"

        Tell them to stop spending so much time watching Fox News.

        Oh, there's plenty of legitimate reasons to be dissatisfied with the government. Fox News just happens to provide all the non-legitimate ones.

      • Tell them to stop spending so much time watching Fox News.

        Three years ago, one could have made the same statement about MSNBC.

  • by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:06AM (#34876838) Journal
    I am feeling that "higher" trustworthiness means "lower" integrity. That is an awful foul definition of trust, especially in an "open" government.
  • by confused one ( 671304 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:08AM (#34876858)
    [rant mode on]: Just because I'm unhappy, this does not make me untrustworthy. I trade on my experience, work ethic and reputation. I DO NOT violate trust. Not because I think I'm grossly underpaid. Not because I don't agree with my management. Not when I'm having a bad day. Not ever. This is an unrealistic measure that's likely going to unintentionaly bite good people in the ass.[rant mode off]
    • by Magada ( 741361 )

      Ôishi, is that you?

    • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @11:25AM (#34877910)

      I DO NOT violate trust.

      What will you do if, while working for the government, you come up with evidence of highly illegal activities by your higher-ups? You'll either publish the evidence and violate their trust, or not publish and thus help cover their crimes, thus violating the trust of the public who ultimately pay your paycheck.

      Not violating trust is a fine principle, but it also allows corruption to continue unhindered. It also allows corporations to kill people through neglect like BP did. It allowed the Catholic Church to keep on protecting pdeophile priests for decades and pretend that this was a good thing. Or, to stop beating around the bush, it allowed Nazi death camps to operate despite every participant knowing perfectly well - judging by their own letters - that they were doing a horrible, vile thing.

      Every organization needs people who are ready to betray it. Otherwise there's nothing stopping it from rotting to the very core.

  • Tell them what you are searching for and will find a lot of people, specially in places where everyone were happy before knowing that.
  • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:22AM (#34876994)

    OF COURSE the abusers of power in government don't want these people to have a place to speak, or anything substantive to say when they do speak. That's WHY this right is protected!

    Who else but the people who are pissed off against you are going to petition for grievances?

    And they have a right to do it, and they have a right to KNOW you're screwing them over--so that they CAN call you on your BS.

    If you specifically select against malcontents, you're not protecting yourself against security risks. You're abridging a fundamental right.

    Here's the text if you don't feel like looking it up. It's not like anybody got killed so you could have it:
    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

    • What happens when those petitions go unheeded?

      What happens when the opposed policy is praised by other governments and people in high regard?

      What happens when an already-disgruntled government employee with access to confidential documents sees one too many things go against them?

      There's no infringement on free speech here. Any government employee can express any opinion they like about the government. That's never been in question. Instead, government employees who might be a security risk get moved away f

      • by karlandtanya ( 601084 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @12:06PM (#34878688)

        You miss the point (which is actually the focus of the headline).

        The violation of rights is demonstrated in the criteria used to exclude people.

        Selecting against pyromaniacs when granting access to the gasoline is a false analogy.

        A better analogy would be an employer (government or private) preventing anybody from distributing any sort of non-work-related literature while at work. That's permitted.
        But the emloyer could NOT specifically prevent people from distributing political literature that was pro-union.

        Note again that the violation is not in the prohibition, but in the criteria for selecting what's prohibited.

        By selecting against malcontents, you are specifically excluding those who would seek to exercise the right to petition for redress.

        The right to petition does not stop at "If the carefully selected lies we choose to present to you piss you off, you can say something. Because we have already prepared glib answers to shut you down, and, really--if we cared what you say about those issues, we wouldn't have let you know in the first place."

        The right to petition also includes "You get to see what we're doing and judge for yourself whether you have a grievance."

        A completely separate argument "it's an issue of national security" is code for "we've told a different lie to everyone involved. We would be quite embarrassed if you people got together to compare notes." God help us if you actually found out what we do here--you'd be pretty angry about it.

  • More HSPD12 crap. I went though a more invasive background check for a "position of public trust" than friends that got "secret" clearances. And everything I work on is public domain except for some private information from my contractor company.

    If my government(USA) starts treating everyone like criminals they are going to start acting like criminals. Or is that to hard of a concept to understand for congress and the administration.

  • Too bad, so sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by lolococo ( 574827 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @10:32AM (#34877114) Homepage

    Funny to see how the US government is reacting to the Cablegate events in all the wrong ways. Instead of taking the opportunity to show the American people that it is a democratic government, and demonstrate for a change some measure of honesty and willingness to take a stand for people's freedom and rights, it simply makes it clearer by the minute what its intent is: grab the power, keep the power, perpetuate that situation and screw those who oppose it.

    By these actions, this government, like those of most other countries, is making itself the enemy of the people. This may be a bleak world, but that's the only one we've got.

    • As someone who had a pretty good view of communism (just 10 miles to the next communist country), it seems we're getting there, but at least with more entertaining TV program.

      At least for now, we're working on that too.

      • Whew! I'd love some entertaining TV... think we can sell them our reality programs?

      • by hoggoth ( 414195 )

        > As someone who had a pretty good view of communism (just 10 miles to the next communist country)

        Sarah Palin, is that you?

      • On the very small scale (e.g. around 30 people) communism can work. It doesn't scale well because the only mechanism encourage people to act in the best interests of the whole is societal pressure, which becomes less effective with larger numbers as people become more anonymous. To an extent, most music festivals are communist -- from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs. But these are very transient institutions; it's easy to be altruistic for a few days out of a year when un
    • by ErikZ ( 55491 ) *

      Instead of taking the opportunity to show the American people that it is a democratic government...

      It's not. It's a Republic. There is a difference, that's why we have different words for them.

  • Put out a memo requiring everybody to smile all day in the office, on pain of being fired.

    Morale will skyrocket.

    • And Friday will be funny hat day.

      I somehow don't feel like playing Paranoia anymore. It feels too much like home more and more.

  • This isn't an attempt to get rid of people before they leak stuff like Bradley Manning, this is simply an attempt to reduce the bureaucracy! I mean think about it, have you ever seen a happy bureaucrat? No, they're all miserable and depressed. This is actually just a way to reduce manpower and costs without Congress having to lose face by making huge budget costs! People always complain the government is too big and bloated, and wastes too much money, but when the government does something about it, the
  • After all, a gramme is better than a damn.
  • Essentially the question they're asking is "is contracting you a security risk?" Now what company head in his sane mind would answer yes?

    • The answer of course is to use this as an excuse to fire anyone you don't like. Dig enough into anyone's past and you will find some reason to fire them that will sound good to the federales. Then you hand over a list and say "we identified all of these security risks and eliminated them, we are shiny and clean!"

  • Sometime (Score:3, Informative)

    by geekoid ( 135745 ) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Friday January 14, 2011 @11:21AM (#34877848) Homepage Journal

    an article will come up in /,. abuot something I know fairly well. This is one of those times.

    It's a stark reminder that you're mostly a bunch of ignoramuses that spout off about crap you know nothing about.

    What the majority of posters think this is, it's effectiveness, and out come would be laughable if those ideas didn't spread ignorance about the US government; which despite it's flaws is one of the best governments in the world.

    It treats the peple it works for well, it works to protect the rights of it's people, and has almost no corruption.

    Its not perfect, and of course there are exception, but look at the whole and it's pretty good. We can do better, and we will.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      But this government goes through bouts of corruption and incompetence. Under other circumstances, complaints and suggestions are handled within the system or by legislation. But we just came off almost a decade of an administration (and even longer, Congress) that basically took the attitude of "We're going to run this country for the benefit of our cronies. The rest of you can go fuck yourselves. You're just cannon fodder for our schemes." The system was broken and the people who sought to do fix it had no

    • It treats the peple it works for well, it works to protect the rights of it's people, and has almost no corruption.

      What fucking world are you living in? I'll agree it's not perfect, and we could do better. But protects the rights of it's people? I don't think the government, in general, has done that for a couple decades now (perhaps with the exception of a few courts scattered about the country).

      It's a stark reminder that you're mostly a bunch of ignoramuses that spout off about crap you know nothing about.

      And how the hell do you get modded up for spouting off such self-serving, smug, flambait bullshit as this? You didn't even remark about what you know, "fairly well," to justify such an assertion.

      Here, I've got a comment as

  • enough said.

  • by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Friday January 14, 2011 @11:35AM (#34878094) Homepage

    I expect that once Twitter hands over user data to the US regarding followers of WikiLeaks that a lot of us will be barred entry from the country. I don't especially care, but it could inconvenience many.

    Oddly there are people who would say "You're paranoid, that wouldn't happen." despite years of people being unable to board airplanes because of a vague list.

    • What will be even more interesting is those of us already living in the country will probably be barred from leaving. That no-fly list sure does a lot more than protect us from terrorists doesn't it?
  • While not handing out security clearances to every Tom, Dick and Harry is a good start, you also have to ask what makes a malcontent in the first place.

    In the end malcontents either crave attention or you bred them. If you want to breed the perfect malcontent just apply the Bobby Kotic method:

    I think we definitely have been able to instill the culture, the skepticism and pessimism and fear that you should have in an economy like we are in today. And so, while generally people talk about the recession, we are pretty good at keeping people focused on the deep depression.

  • ... measuring the "trustworthiness" of their employees and whether they use a psychiatrist or sociologist to measure the unhappiness of an employee as a measure of trustworthiness

    Who will measure the unhappiness of the psychiatrists and sociologists?

  • Haha, I expected to see a sea of white and hear crickets chirping in this story's comment section...

    ducking...running...desperately trying to delete post............
  • Oh goody here comes the loyalty tests.

    The act of whistleblowing, which is what wikileaks facilitates, is one of the highest forms of patriotism in a democracy: keeping the government answerable to the people requires that the people know what government is up to, *especially* when it's up to no good.

  • Now, let also find those that are spying on America. The fact is that there are more malcontents who should NOT be granted security clearances. That is an absolute fact.
    And we are LOADED with spies. I would guess that most are Chinese.

    HOWEVER, what is desperately needed is an overhaul of the system. For example, it is still considered an issue if you are gay. Yet, the majority of ppl that are gay and working for the gov. are happy ppl and do not care one bit if they are gay. These ppl are NOT security ri

Executive ability is deciding quickly and getting somebody else to do the work. -- John G. Pollard