South Asians aghast at Pentagon depiction of community

Washington, Aug 21 (IANS) South Asians in America have reacted with a sense of outrage at a US Defence Department online security training test that profiles a fictional Indian-American woman as a potential "high threat" and having "divided loyalty" just because she disagrees with US foreign policy.

One of the training slides created by the Defence Information Systems Agency (DISA) asks employees to consider a hypothetical "Hema" a "high threat" because she frequently visits family abroad, has money troubles and "speaks openly of unhappiness with US foreign policy.

"Based on statements, this employee demonstrates divided loyalty. Paired with her financial difficulties and foreign travel, she is a high threat," says the programme for Defence Department and other federal employees by way of explanation.

Versions of the "Cyber Awareness Challenge" are unclassified and available for anyone to play online. "Catch me if you can," the training dares.

And if you fail the test by not identifying Hema as a 'threat', as this IANS correspondent did, the fictional female spy calls back and says with a chuckle: "You were too slow. I'll think of that as I enjoy a drink on the beach."

Reacting to the offending programme after it was first reported by Huffington Post, editors from a South Asian news and culture website wrote "As you can imagine, reading that line caused all of us here in The Aerogram's headquarters to have a 'Hey! That sounds like me!' moment."

Noting that the Post article suggested that the training was designed to help catch future Bradley Mannings and Edward Snowdens, who are both white men, they wrote: "We think the training would have been much more true-to-life if Hema had been the child of a Welsh immigrant a la Manning."

Examining the slides, Aerogram editors said they "were struck by the fact that a character that regularly plays high-stakes poker was considered less of a threat than Hema, and that Hema's propensity of travel made her as much of a risk as a recently divorced man mired in debt who openly worries about paying child support."

"Hema's foreign travel, the slide notes, is a threat because it "gives foreign agents a chance to contact foreign intelligence services."

"For us, the strangest part of seeing someone like the fictional Hema classified as a high risk threat is that travelling internationally, exercising the rights to free speech and having political opinions are generally indicators of a well-rounded, actively involved citizen," they wrote.

"Couldn't the government use more inspired young people who know that the world is a big and complicated place? Why are these traits considered undesirable and threatening when the person possessing them is a South Asian American woman?" they asked.

A blog post on the South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA) forum cited Tanzila Ahmed, a Bangladeshi-American activist, as saying that the defence department "was fortunate to have South Asian Americans working in the federal government as it doesn't always treat the South Asian and Muslim community judicially."

The HuffPost described the Hema' slide as "a startling demonstration of the Obama administration's obsession with leakers and other 'insider threats'" and cited Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, as branding it "ignorant and clumsy".

Speaking openly of unhappiness with US foreign policy "is not a threat indicator", he wrote in an email to HuffPost.

"It could apply to most members of Congress, if not to most Americans. By presenting the matter this way, the slide suggests that overt dissent is a security concern. That is an error."

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

Kallis, Narine star in Knight Riders’ crushing win

An all-round display saw Knight Riders thump Mumbai Indians by 41 runs in the IPL-7 opener. More »

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

Pietersen to miss Delhi's first game

The former England batsman will have to lead the franchise as he is out of the match against Bangalore with a finger injury. More »

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

Srinivasan named in fixing report: SC

The court emphasised that the tainted administrator can no longer work for the BCCI. More »

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'If you do the wrong thing it will be found out'

'Everyone knows what is right and what is wrong and if you do the wrong thing it will be found out' More »

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Why I'm not looking forward to the IPL

Welcome to another season of a league that many watch but few trust. More »

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Mitchell Johnson may quit T20s for Test cricket

Australia's Mitchell Johnson may quit limited-overs cricket to prolong his test career with an eye on the 2015 Ashes series in England, the fast bowler… More »

There's a lot going on: Fleming

There's a lot going on: Fleming

He experienced anxious moments in the lead-up to the tournament as the courts decided on whether to suspend the franchise, he said, but stressed that the… More »

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Latif couldn’t work with tainted players

Former Pakistan cricket captain Rashid Latif said Tuesday he turned down the job of national chief selector because he could not work with ex-players tainted… More »

We are not over-confident: Bailey

We are not over-confident: Bailey

Indian Premier League — George Bailey-led Kings XI Punjab will face Chennai Super Kings on Friday. More »

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

Taxing issue — BCCI hits roadblock

MoU between BCCI & its units to avoid double taxation delayed after a few decline to share details. More »

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Big runs expected, with bat and ball

Royal Challengers Bangalore: Their main concern, once again, is the fast bowling More »

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

Black Caps pick rookie duo for West Indies

New Zealand selectors included two new caps in a 15-man Test squad named Tuesday to tour the West Indies, with injury-hit spinner Dan Vettori's future… More »

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The stage is set for IPL-7 to start

The Preview — Defending champions Mumbai Indians take on Kolkata Knight Riders More »

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

Srinivasan appeals to court to allow BCCI comeback

He was aggrieved by the allegations against him during the hearing. More »

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Klinger on his exit from South Australia

Michael Klinger has revealed he felt compelled to leave South Australia after being told he would be only a fringe part of the Redbacks' plans for next season, and disputed the suggestion that he left… More »

India: cricket's Brazil

India: cricket's Brazil

They are tough to beat with a big talent base exposed to good facilities. (CYCSPL) More »

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Delhi Daredevils say no to gifts

Franchises are doing their bit to refurbish the image of the tainted league. More »

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

India-Pakistan Test series likely in 2015

The revival of Indo-Pak Test ties could take place in UAE. More »

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

Kohli hopes to end RCB trophy drought

'This time around we will hope to go few more steps ahead and actually get that trophy' More »

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Gavaskar can help IPL regain glory

Apart from the foreign players a lot of behind-the-scene activity has taken place in selecting the Indian domestic players. More »

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Tendulkar, Ganguly to promote soccer

Leading Spanish club Atletico Madrid and former cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly are among the owners of eight franchises of a new Indian… More »

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

This isn’t my first trip to India: Neesham

Kiwi all-rounder wants to utilise the India leg to explore the country’s tourist attractions. More »

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Ishant wanted to quit ODIs

Says his mother made him change his mind. More »