No Good Excuses
|Security officers have collected a list of excuses people use to avoid fulfilling their responsibility to report counterintelligence or suitability indicators.1 These are common and understandable human reactions. None of us want an organization full of snitches. But we do want to help colleagues with problems before those problems get completely out of control. And we do want to prevent espionage if we can, and catch the spy if we cant.||
The following excuses often come to mind when someone notices a problem. They must be recognized for what they are excuses. They are not rational reasons for failing to act when you observe reportable behavior.
"I should mind my own business and not get involved."
Mind your own business is often good advice, but security is a shared responsibility. It is everyones business including yours. Like it or not, you are involved, because you hold a privileged position of trust, and that imposes certain responsibilities.
"Someone else will report it. I dont have the time."
Dont try to shift the responsibility to someone else. Security is part of your job. Just do it!
"If I report it, theyll either ignore it or go off the deep end about it. They wont take me seriously."
All reports are seriously evaluated and acted on discretely as appropriate. Thats securitys job.
"If people find out that I reported information about a co-worker, itll only cause tension and mistrust in the office."
The Privacy Act allows individuals who provide information to investigators to request confidentiality. If you so request, your information will be held in confidence and you will not be identified as the source. If you are concerned about confidentiality, confirm this with security before making your report.
"Its not right to tell on someone."
Thats not what Sgt. Jeffrey Carney thinks. He needed help, but no one listened, so he is now serving 38 years in prison for espionage. Here's Carney's message.
Voice of Experience
"If you want to do these people a favor who have problems -- and I'm talking from experience -- say something. If somebody had said something to me and put a block in front of me and said, I think Jeffs got a problem and I dont think that hes handling it very well, that would have been enough to stop the process .I lost everything -- my dignity, my freedom, my self-respect."
"I cant believe John would ever betray us. Hes a loyal American."
Most Americans arrested for espionage have found a way to rationalize to themselves that they are still loyal Americans. The mind does weird things, and its hard to know what goes on in another persons head. Just report the observed behavior, and let security and the psychologists check out what it means. Your report of an apparent indicator is not an accusation of wrongdoing. Its just something that needs to be checked out. It may turn out to be nothing important. But no one knows until it is checked.
"He has a clearance, so if he wasnt okay he wouldnt be here."
Almost all spies have gone bad after they got their clearance. The security office is not all-knowing. It depends upon you to note changes in peoples behavior, and to alert your security officer to things that need to be checked out.
"Its not my job. I dont have all the facts. Its just not my problem."
Of course its your job. And it will be your problem if you are held accountable for not reporting significant counterintelligence or security concerns. You are not expected to have all the facts and should not try to investigate on your own. Thats securitys job, to get the facts and evaluate whether there is a basis for concern.
1. The statements of excuses are drawn mainly from No Good Reasons Not to Report, undated NSA brochure.
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