cominer

Big Embarrassment for the FBI?

In Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 at 8:26 am

A former Israeli tank commander turned peace activist and blogger who pleaded guilty to leaking five secret documents he obtained while working as a translator for the FBI is a “black eye” for the Bureau and “signals a breakdown in the security clearance process there, according to track clearance issues.”

That’s the word from Josh Gerstein and Laura Rozen in Politico who are up with a detailed report on the arrest and guilty plea of Shamai Leibowitz.

Leibowitz, whose arrest was announced last week, worked as a linguist for the Bureau from August through January of this year, during which time he had a top secret security clearance and access to classified documents.

In his plea agreement,

Leibowitz Pleads

Leibowitz admitted that in April of this year, he disclosed five documents about government spying on Americans to a blogger.

That apparently helped lead to a New York Times story about “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans.

“As a trusted member of the FBI ranks, Leibowitz abused the trust of the FBI and the American public by using his access to classified information for his own purposes,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Richard A. McFeely said last week.

But, according to Politico, the real problems might be with the FBI, which maybe shouldn’t have given Leibowitz — whom Politico describes as “an unlikely candidate for a top U.S. security clearance” — a job to begin with.

Gerstein and Rozen report that the FBI probably should have taken note of several things easily discoverable through Google, such as

There’s the article describing how he “has devoted great efforts to advancing the cause of economic and diplomatic war against the existence of the Jewish state.”

There is the article he wrote criticizing a Bush administration plan for Mideast peace that he says will fail, in part because it doesn’t take into account “that all West Bank cities had been invaded by Israeli military sources.”

Anyway, regardless of whether or not you agree with Leibowitz’s point of view, it seems clear he wasn’t the typical — or one might think likely — candidate for an FBI job with top secret clearance.

Then there’s the fact that ten years ago he was rebuked ten years ago by an Israeli supreme court justice for disclosing another judge’s comments.

Maybe it should have occurred to the FBI that once someone leaks once, they might very well do it again.

I know as a reporter, I’ve always tried to figure out who the officials likely to share information are in the hopes that they will then share with me.

Maybe I should be helping the FBI do background checks.

Gerstein and Rozen report that the FBI is trying to figure out what went wrong.

“In any case where it is learned that either one of our full-time employees or contract employees has willfully compromised sensitive data, a thorough internal review is automatically conducted to learn the full scope of the information compromised and to identify potential gaps in access control policy and personnel security clearance procedures,” they quote FBI spokesman Paul Bresson as saying.

Anyway, if you missed the link to Gerstein and Rozen’s piece at the top of this post, here it is again.

It’s worth the read.

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  1. About the FBI in general, especially in the context of criminal justice system shortcomings, which is the realm of my T/S blog: Its agents and other employees have enjoyed a reputation for effective crime fighting every since its creation during the early portion of the past century. Its long-time director, J. Edgar Hoover, somehow snowed journalists and other members of the publicity machinery into promoting a positive–even superhuman–image. My experience as a journalist when dealing with the FBI has led me to a different conclusion. Although I find agents and other employees well-educated (often with law and accounting degrees) and often helpful, their effectiveness seems low. Numerous FBI reports I have read, both historical reports and contemporary reports, have been filled with errors. As for security breakdowns, the FBI has suffered way too many. It is difficult to fully trust a law enforcement agency that does not police itself well.

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