NSA planted at Facebook?

Facebook decides it needs employees with national security clearances to spot trolls.

The reporting is a bit garbled, but it sounds like Facebook means these people should maintain their clearances while they’re working for Facebook, and receive information from national intelligence sources as a routine part of their job description.

This development, of course, is in response to the much-hyped story that Russian trolls bought ads on Facebook in 2016, seeking to do something terrible to the U.S. election.  The evidence of that keeps disappearing on us, but in spite of being unable to spot it in advance, Facebook is very, very sure it didn’t merely happen, but meant something of extraordinary, if still unparsable, significance.

Let’s take a moment, meanwhile, to parse what Facebook’s proposal would mean for social media operations in the United States.

Bloomberg offers this summary of how the policy would translate into practical action from the employee’s point of view:

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.

Pretty straightforward, and essentially correct.  But 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.

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.

Read the rest at: NSA at Facebook

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