Security Clearance Denial

Former FBI Contract Linguist Pleads Guilty to Leaking Classified Information to Blogger

The FBI released a statement and politico reported that a former FBI contract linguist pleaded guilty to unlawfully providing classified documents to the host of an Internet blog who then published information derived from those documents on the blog.

Shamai Kedem Leibowitz, a.k.a., Samuel Shamai Leibowitz, 39, of Silver Spring, Maryland, pleaded guilty in federal court to a one-count information charging him with knowingly and willfully disclosing to an unauthorized person five FBI documents classified at the “Secret” level that contained classified information concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States.  Under the plea agreement, the government and Leibowitz have agreed that a term of 20 months imprisonment is the appropriate sentence in this case.

From January 2009 through August 2009, Leibowitz was employed by the FBI as a contract linguist in an office in Calverton, Maryland.  Leibowitz held a Top Secret security clearance and is an Israeli American dual citizen. More from Politico…

“After news of the charges against him broke, it took reporters only minutes to track down news articles reporting that Leibowitz was fired from a legal clerkship in Israel and was publicly chastised by an Israeli Supreme Court justice for leaking a judge’s private comments…

Experts were also puzzled that someone with a long history of public activism on polarizing issues would wind up working for U.S. law enforcement in a classified environment and be granted access to sensitive information…

Some lawyers said the top-secret clearance awarded to Leibowitz, who describes himself as an Israeli-American, was particularly puzzling because Americans who are also Israeli citizens frequently face clearance denials and delays because of concerns they might harbor an allegiance to Israel.”

The FBI said it would look at whether the clearance process was handled properly.

Does this signal a breakdown in the security clearance process?

Related Article: Dual Citizenship And Security Clearances, Foreign Influence and Security Clearances

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    This just stresses the importance of good security training, protection and oversight. Security specialists in the government and Facility Security Officers for cleared contractors are responsible for ensuring cleared employees understand their roles in protecting classified information.

    The failure may not only lie with those adjudicating the clearances, but also with other cleared employees not noticing the warning signs. Often indicators are displayed by those who disclose classified information in an unauthorized manner.

    Our biggest threat is not an adversary breaking in and stealing our secrets. Cleared employees, like the one in the article, are breaking the law and the trust placed in them. Security managers should continue to reinforce training and ceaselessly work to ensure Cleared employees protect classified information and report suspicious activities.

  2. Avatar

    Great suggestions Jeffrey. Quality training in areas like confidentiality, professionalism (and just plain old good judgment) seems to be in short supply in many law enforcement agencies. Lots of time is spent on tactical training, report writing, interviewing/interrogating, even computer training, but more training is needed on protecting important information. I think there is just an assumption that employees know better than to disclose information and will read, correctly interpret and follow policies/procedures like they’ve been told to do. In this cell phone texting, twittering, blogging culture, it’s hard for some people to keep their social life and their work life separate, and early signs of problems should not be ignored.

  3. Avatar

    Jeffrey and CI App,

    Funny how we use all the technology in the world and the best info of this guy’s prior indiscretions are found on google!!!!!!!!! I too agree with both of your assessments, but no amount of training will stop someone hell bent on doing what he did–there is no doubt in my mind this was his intentions from jumpstreet. Jeffrey, I somehow think we have forgot about the insider threats–your thoughts?