The Director of National Intelligence, Mr. James Clapper, recently signed the ‘Security Executive Agent Directive Five’ (SEAD5) Which, when adopted as part of public policy, would give far-reaching powers to the U.S. federal government to incorporate publicly-available posts on social media sites in the security clearance procedure. As part of the process, the government will be legally able to use applicants’ posts on sites like Facebook and Twitter to either grant or deny government security clearances to them. The new policy is all set to come into effect fairly soon, adding more fuel to the already raging fire over the national security vs. privacy debate. Even though investigative agencies won’t be legally bound to consider social media information as part of their investigations, the policy would allow federal authorities to do so if deemed appropriate on a case-to-case basis.
Announcing his full support for the new public policy, the Director of ODNI’s National Counterintelligence and Security Center, Mr. Bill Evanina, said, “Social media has become an integral and very public part of the fabric of most Americans’ daily lives. We cannot afford to ignore this important open source in our effort to safeguard our secrets and our nation’s security”. One important thing to note here is that the ODNI (Office of the Director of National intelligence) is claiming that even though the new policy gives more authority to federal investigators, it doesn’t allow any sweeping powers that may be considered a breach of civil liberties.
According to the ODNI, information collected about anybody other than the one being actively tracked, will not be pursued unless it raises national security concerns or falls under existing federal laws regarding criminal reporting requirement. What the agency also clarifies is that investigators will not have any authority to demand that individuals or organizations reveal their social media passwords or login credentials. They will also not attempt to obtain any information that’s not publicly-available. Those are important caveats according to Mr. Evanina, who believes that this new policy in particular and the whole process of granting security clearances in general, are “a small price to pay to protect our nation’s secrets and ensure the trust the American people have placed in us”.