60 Minutes and the FBI director

DorobekINSIDER: 3 Insights from the FBI Director

Hey there. I’m Christopher Dorobek — the DorobekINSIDER — and welcome GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER… where we focus on six words: Helping government do its job better.

On GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER:

  • A Bright Future for Open Data: As more industries are joining the fight for open data, governmental organizations at the local, state and federal levels have become more interested in utilizing open data. Not only does open data benefit citizens, but it also benefits government workers dealing with intra and interagency communication.  “It’s more than just about transparency,” said Gyrth. “We are looking at a particular change in how big data will affect how government interacts with private industry. There needs to be a bridge between citizens and the government.”
  • Note: Other posts based on GovLoop’s DorobekINSIDER LIVE – open data:

But up front: 3 insights from the FBI director

The director of the FBI James Comey was on CBS’s 60 Minutes over the weekend talking about privacy, electronic surveillance. It is a interesting and frank interview.

CBS’s 60 Minutes with the FBI director

Some insights based on that interview:

1. The big concern is still terrorism, not cybersecurity:

60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley asks the infamous question:

Scott Pelley: When the phone rings in the middle of the night, which I’m sure it does, what’s your first thought?

James Comey: Something has blown up. Yeah.

Scott Pelley: It’s terrorism that concerns you the most, even after what we said about cybercrime.

James Comey: Yeah, I think that’s right because it’s terrorism that can have the most horrific, immediate impact on innocent people  In the age of terrorism the budget of the FBI has doubled, adding capabilities like this reference library for bombs. Since 2003, they’ve analyzed 100,000 bombs sent here from 40 nations. From blasted remains, like this circuit board, they can piece together the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ that leads to the ‘who.’ It’s just some of the 21st century technology that is transforming the 106-year-old bureau.

2. Cyber-security is still pretty important to the FBI these days

The FBI is spending a lot of its time online these days. This is a new cybercrime headquarters that the public hasn’t seen before. We agreed to keep the location secret. They call it “cywatch” and it pulls in resources from the CIA, NSA and others. Comey’s agents are running down leads in the theft of JPMorgan’s data. Often in cases like that the suspects are overseas. So the trouble is, in cyberspace, where do you put the handcuffs?

James Comey: It’s too easy for those criminals to think that I can sit in my basement halfway around the world and steal everything that matters to an American. And it’s a freebie, because I’m so far away.

3. Corney belief in oversight

Oversight and accountability is difficult. That is particularly true in the law enforcement environment. Corney highlighted one area where he believes the FBI went astray: Tracking of Martin Luther King Jr.

Scott Pelley: James Comey keeps this memo right on his desk to remind him of what the bureau shouldn’t do. Marked “secret,” it’s a 1963 request from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Titled, “Martin Luther King Jr., Security Matter – Communist.” Hoover requests authority for “technical surveillance” of King. The approval is signed by Attorney General Robert Kennedy. And there was no court order. It was the signature of the FBI director and the signature of the attorney general?

James Comey: Yep. And then open-ended. No time limit. No space restriction. No review. No oversight.

Scott Pelley: And given the threats in the world today, wouldn’t that make your job so much easier?

James Comey: In a sense, but also in a sense, we would give up so much that makes sure that we’re rooted in the rule of law, that I’d never want to make that trade.

Pelley: What’s the lesson?

James Comey: The lesson is the importance of never becoming untethered to oversight and accountability. I want all of my new special agents and intelligence analysts to understand that portion of the FBI’s history, the FBI’s interaction with Dr. King and draw from it an understanding of the dangers of falling in love with our own rectitude.

The DorobekINSIDER #GovMustRead list:

  • Is VA’s new firing authority the next civil service reform? [Federal Times] federal employee groups are worried it’s just the beginning. “What if people look at this new system and say ‘it works for VA, let’s do it everywhere?’ I think that’s a valid concern,” said Jennifer Mattingley, the legislative director for the Senior Executives Association. While the VA’s power currently applies only to executives, it could be expanded to cover other employees, some fear. At least one lawmaker has already called for such an expansion.
  • DHS employee morale, satisfaction drops again in 2014 [FederalTimes] Employees at the Department of Homeland Security are increasingly unhappy about their work environments, career opportunities and their bosses, according to new survey results.  DHS employees were able to answer the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey up until June 13 — the height of the influx of thousands of unaccompanied children across the Mexico border into the United States.  Fewer than half of DHS employees recommend their organization as a good place to work, falling from 51.9 percent in 2013 to 48 percent in 2014, according to the survey. Only 22.5 percent believe their organization takes steps to remove poor performers who won’t improve — down from 23.7 percent in 2013.
  • Governmentwide cloud contracting efforts missing key ingredients, IGs find [Federal News Radio] Agencies are struggling to follow the rules around cloud computing. The Council of Inspectors General analyzed 77 commercial cloud contracts across 19 civilian agencies and found most failed to implement federal guidance and best practices. A majority of agencies struggled to meet CIO Council and Office of Management and Budget guidance and/or industry best practices in three main areas: cloud contracting specifications, cybersecurity and IT inventory management.
  • Erik Prince Is Right: Private Contractors Will Probably Join The Fight Against ISIS  [BusinessInsider]

The DorobekINSIDER water cooler fodder

Before we finish up… a few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder… yes, we’re trying to help you make your water-cooler time better too…

  • The DorobekINSIDER Book Club – Join us in reading Frans Johansson’s book: The Medici Effect: Breakthrough Insights at the Intersection of Ideas — and then join the discussion about what the concepts mean for government. More information about how it works here.
  • How Governments Use War Games to Prevent Future Catastrophes [GovExec] On Oct. 13, the US and the UK will engage in a simulation of what would happen (paywall) if a large transatlantic bank went under. Treasury secretary Jack Lew, his British counterpart George Osborne and the heads of both central banks will take part.  In this scenario, the authorities in the US and UK are trying to “make sure we can handle an institution that was previously regarded as too big to fail” in the words of the British chancellor.  But this is merely the latest incarnation of the war game, which has a long history of building trust and co-operation among actors and nations that may dislike each other or don’t normally have to listen to anyone else.

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