Everything changed
For as long as the U.S. Army has existed, Soldiers have had a pretty straight forward mission - find the bad guys and stop the bad guys. That job got much more challenging last year, when a Soldier - allegedly Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan - opened fire at a Soldier Readiness Center, killing 13 and injuring at least 30 others at Fort Hood, Texas, Nov. 5. While intelligence Soldiers typically focus on a clearly defined opposition that is often times located halfway around the world, suddenly the Army intelligence community was tasked with identifying a new enemy much closer to home. One of the traditional roles of Army counterintelligence is to prevent hostile or enemy intelligence organizations from successfully gathering and collecting intelligence against them. In the wake of the Fort Hood tragedy, the Army formed the Insider Threat Task Force, charged with a slightly different counterintelligence mission - to detect, asses and neutralize threats originating from individuals within the Army's ranks. The bulk of these new responsibilities fall on Soldiers from the 902nd Military Intelligence Group, located at Fort George G. Meade, Md. "This is a fairly drastic change in mindset for our counterintelligence Soldiers and Civilians," said Ann Clawson, director of investigations for the 902nd MI Group. "A lot of this goes against everything we've been told up until now." In the past, when an enemy was discovered in the ranks, it was typically because a Soldier was attempting to act as a spy. But in this case, it doesn't appear the Fort Hood incident involved espionage. Fortunately for those involved, the Army isn't starting over from scratch. "This task force has been in the works for several years now," said Capt. Richard Bendelewski, a member of the task force. "There was an obvious need after the Fort Hood shootings and we've redeveloped some aspects of it because of that incident. The internal threat is real and self radicalization within the Army, unfortunately, is very real. There is definitely a need for this task force." Prior to joining the Insider Threat Task Force, Bendelewski was a company commander for Company A, 308th MI Battalion, 902nd MI Group, which has counterintelligence responsibilities for the entire northeast portion of the United States. Bendelewski is hopeful his time in command will help as he transitions into his new role and is already using lessons learned from previous experiences to guide him moving forward. "Educational awareness is probably the most important aspect of the Insider Threat Task Force," Bendelewski said. "We need to get out to Army personnel and articulate who we are and what we're looking for. The general population - our Soldiers, Civilians and contractors - will be our eyes and ears. They need to be educated on what to look for, what to report and how to report it. That's our first priority." According to Lawrence D. Gillis, senior advisor for operations with the 902nd MI Group, who was detailed to direct the Insider Threat Task Force, ensuring the workforce knows what indicators to look for and how to report a possible insider threat will go a long way towards preventing future incidents. "The best example I can give is workplace violence," he said. "You hear about some guy going 'postal' and killing 13 people. The next thing you know, everyone is blaming the police for not stopping it. But how could the police have known that this guy could have done this? There are people in his office who probably saw signs and could have spoken up to prevent it." The second part of the training requirement is training our commanders, Bendelewski said. "When it comes to an insider threat, not everything comes from an investigation or an operation," he said. "We simply cannot be everywhere at once. We need to educate commanders on how to identify internal threats and what to do with that information once they've got it." Figuring out where to draw the line of what should be considered a threat and what shouldn't is one of the biggest challenges for the task force and for the Army in general. "Not every Soldier acting out is a threat," Bendelewski said. "It might just be a knucklehead making stupid comments. We can be there to advise and assist commanders, but ultimately it falls on them to determine the best course of action."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16