Trump Administration Launches Broad New Anti-Leak ProgramGet the Full StoryPresident Donald Trump with National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster in August.
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The top US national security official has directed government departments and agencies to warn employees across the entire federal government next week about the dangers and consequences of leaking even unclassified information.The Trump administration has already promised an aggressive crackdown on anyone who leaks classified information. The latest move is a dramatic step that could greatly expand what type of leaks are under scrutiny and who will be scrutinized.In the memo about leaks that was subsequently obtained by BuzzFeed News, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster details a request that “every Federal Government department and agency” hold a one-hour training next week on “unauthorized disclosures” — of classified and certain unclassified information.The request includes “ s uggested training materials” — provided by the National Counterintelligence and Security Center — that include the 15-minute C-SPAN video of Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ August news conference about leaks and a six-minute Fox News video of an interview with the National Counterintelligence and Security Center’s director, William Evanina.White House and National Security Council officials did not respond to requests for comment on the memo on Wednesday.Last month, Sessions said his department was pursuing a number of leak investigations, and that the FBI has created a unit to deal with leaks of classified information. “We will not allow rogue anonymous sources with security clearances to sell out our country any longer,” he said in the August press conference.The memo, dated Sept. 8, signals a potentially dramatic expansion of the previous administration’s war on leaks. The Obama administration moves focused on alleged national security leaks and “insider threats” — an effort centered around the intelligence agencies under an October 2011 executive order from President Obama. Those investigations — and in some cases, prosecutions — were widely criticized, particularly in the media.McMaster’s memo is directed to a much larger group, including virtually every senior official in the federal government — from the vice president and cabinet heads to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the director of the Peace Corps. Perhaps more importantly, the memo asserts that “unauthorized disclosure” of both classified and “controlled unclassified” information “causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people.”The McMaster memorandum itself likely would be seen as a type of such a “controlled unclassified” document, as it is marked: “UNCLASSIFIED FOUO For Official Use Only .”The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by leaks at all levels, a source of considerable public criticism from the president himself. Axios reported Sept. 10 that Sessions has suggested employing lie detector tests in at least one leak investigation.In the memo, McMaster requests that every government department and agency “dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and uncontrolled unclassified information.” Although issued as a request, the memo later notes, “In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.”Planning is taking place to hold the trainings, one department confirmed Wednesday. Although a date has not yet been set, Education Department press secretary Liz Hill told BuzzFeed News, “The Department has received the White House Memorandum dated September 8 from General McMaster, and it intends to comply.”While highlighting concerns regarding unauthorized disclosures of classified information, McMaster also writes regarding the trainings that “it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.”In addition to the videos, which would constitute about one-third of the training time, the training draft schedule from the National Counterintelligence and Security Center includes discussion from “Department Agency leads” on the differences between espionage, “unauthorized disclosures of classified information ,” “leaks to the media ,” hackers and whistleblowing. There also is to be a discussion of “ d amage to national security, to the organization, to the American public,” “ p enalties for unauthorized classified disclosures,” and “ a specific case, if possible in this particular D epartment A gency .”The full text of the memo:Memorandum for the Vice PresidentThe Secretary of StateThe Secretary of the TreasuryThe Secretary of DefenseThe Attorney GeneralThe Secretary of the InteriorThe Secretary of AgricultureThe Secretary of CommerceThe Secretary of LaborThe Secretary of Health and Human ServicesThe Secretary of Housing and Urban DevelopmentThe Secretary of TransportationThe Secretary of EnergyThe Secretary of EducationThe Secretary of Veterans AffairsThe Secretary of Homeland SecurityAdministrator of the Environmental Protection AgencyDirector of the Office of Management and BudgetUnited States Trade RepresentativeRepresentative of the United States of America to the United NationsChair of the Council of Economic AdvisersAdministrator of the Small Business AdministrationAssistant to the President and National Security AdvisorDirector of National IntelligenceAssistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology PolicyAssistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic CouncilAssistant to the President for Homeland Security and CounterterrorismDirector of the National Drug Control PolicyChair of the Council on Environmental QualityDirector of the National Counterrorism CenterDirector of the Federal Bureau of InvestigationChairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve SystemPresident of the Export-Import Bank of the United StatesDirector of the Central Intelligence AgencyAdministrator of the United States Agency for International DevelopmentChairman of the Joint Chiefs of StaffAdministrator of General ServicesAdministrator of the National Aeronautics and Space AdministrationDirector of the Office of Personnel ManagementAdministrator of the Federal Aviation AdministrationChair of the Nuclear Regulatory CommissionDirector of the Peace CorpsChief Executive Officer, Millennium Challenge CorporationDirector, White House Military OfficeDirector of the National Security AgencyDirector of the Defense Intelligence AgencyDirector of the Selective Service SystemPresident of the Overseas Private Investment CorporationChair of the Federal Communications CommissionExecutive Director of the President’s Intelligence Advisory BoardDirector of the National Science FoundationAdministrator of Drug EnforcementNational Geospatial-Intelligence AgencySUBJECT: Request for Provision of Training on Unauthorized DisclosuresThe unauthorized disclosure of classified information or controlled unclassified United States Government information causes harm to our Nation and shakes the confidence of the American people. In this era of unprecedented unauthorized disclosures, it is important to take time to review with your workforce their roles and responsibilities in safeguarding United States Government information.In light of the recent press conference by the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence regarding unauthorized disclosures, I am requesting that every Federal Government department and agency dedicate a 1-hour, organization-wide event to engage their workforce in a discussion on the importance of protecting classified and controlled unclassified information, and measures to prevent and detect unauthorized disclosures.For those with access to classified information, a review of the non-disclosure agreement reminds us of the responsibilities that come with access to, and penalties for unauthorized disclosure of, classified information. However, it is equally important to discuss the importance of protecting controlled unclassified and personally identifiable information from unauthorized public disclosure.Although there are policies and guidance already in place to prevent unauthorized disclosures, it will be time well spent to shine a spotlight on the importance of this issue, and engage the workforce in conversation about what it means to be a steward of United States Government information. It is particularly important to stress the sharp difference between unauthorized disclosures of information and whistleblowing — the responsibility of all federal employees to report waste, fraud and abuse through proper channels.There are many resources available to frame this 1-hour event, including a review of policies, guidance, videos, and training materials, and perhaps most important, an open discussion to answer questions and raise issues to ensure that our safeguarding measures are understood and effective.Suggested training materials are attached. In order to ensure a consistent and strong message is given to the entire federal workforce, such training should occur the week of September 18-22, 2017.H.R. McMasterLieutenant General, United States ArmyAssistant to the President for National Security AffairsMolly Hensley-Clancy contributed reporting.