On Monday, Bloomberg reported that Facebook, the social media giant Breitbart once called “the world’s most dangerous censor,” now wants to hire employees with national security clearances, in an effort to allegedly prevent foreign powers — like Russia — from manipulating future elections through its social network, a person familiar with the matter said.
According to Bloomberg:
Workers with such clearance can access information classified by the U.S. government. Facebook plans to use these people — and their ability to receive government information about potential threats — to search more proactively for questionable social media campaigns ahead of elections, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the information is sensitive. A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.
Job candidates like this are often former government and intelligence officials or contractors. The status can carry over to private-sector jobs, as long as the position still requires access to sensitive information. Previously granted clearances become inactive when intelligence workers leave government employment, but they can be reactivated on Facebook’s behalf, the person said.
The Office of the National Director of Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security didn’t respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
“But,” J.E. Dyer, a retired Naval Intelligence officer, said at Liberty Unyielding, “this summary leaves out the most important part, which is that all national security clearances are justified based on a government program — not a private-industry program.”
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In other words: Facebook would pay the costs of keeping people “in status” (e.g., background checks), as many government contractors do. But the clearances can’t exist at all unless there is a government program that makes them necessary.
Clearances go not with employees but with programmatic requirements. Clearance “billets” always exist, once the need for them has been established, and employees come and go from them. Some of the employees are in private industry; the Defense Department, Homeland Security, Justice, Treasury, and Energy, among others, have oversight of a lot of these private-industry billets.
So Facebook is proposing to operate the way a government contractor does, administering clearance billets that are programmatically owned by a department of the U.S. Government.
So, Dyer asked, which agency would Facebook be joined at the hip with, to take administrative responsibility for national security clearances, and translate that into receiving national intelligence?
Good question. Dyer suggested that the Department of Homeland Security would be her first guess. I would tend to agree with that assessment.
Would the intelligence updates come through DHS? Would they come directly from CIA? Would Facebook employees have access to highly classified signals intelligence; i.e., the information made available from NSA?
Would Facebook employees with the requisite clearances have their own user accounts on the national intelligence ICITE network — the one that gives access to the vast NSA database of communications data collected on Americans?
If that sounds scary to you, it should. Personally, I can’t think of anything scarier than moderators at a social media outlet being that close to confidential information about users.
Let’s not forget, this is a company whose moderators apparently can’t tell the difference between a lilac tree and pornography.
Dyer notes: “Giving Facebook employees primary access to national intelligence information on the world’s communication data, including Americans’, can be the only rational end-purpose for this idea.”
She further adds:
We’d be deep in Big Brother, Stalin-could-only-wish territory with this one. Facebook is in a league of its own as a social media platform; it already watches you like a hawk, and has you pegged and categorized six ways to Sunday within nano-level tolerances; and now it wants (or somebody wants it) to be on an umbilical cord to the highly networked U.S. intelligence community, Samantha Power’s and Susan Rice’s handmaiden in unmasking Friends of Trump in 2015 and 2016.
“What could go wrong?” she asked. The mind boggles…
As a final note, Adina Kutnicki, an investigative journalist based in Israel, and I touched on some of the results of Facebook’s counter-terror efforts in our book, Banned: How Facebook enables militant jihad. Trust me when I say it’s not pretty…
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