The FBI is still struggling to employ hackers because they’re all smoking weed


Weed, low pay, and a lack of female employees, are what's leaving the US susceptible to cyber attacks.

In its latest published report on the nation's cyber security strategy (2015), the US department of justice found that 40 per cent of FBI cyber security positions were unfilled.

The report found that:

The FBI did not hire 52 of the 134 computer scientists for which it was authorised; and five of the 56 field offices did not have a computer scientist assigned to that office’s Cyber Task Force.

The gap between candidates and job postings is only likely to grow, given the predicted boom in cyber security jobs that consultants Frost and Sullivan claim will outstrip the number of qualified experts by 2020.

A draft of a new executive orders on cyber security was published in the Washington Post, ordering a review of 'Workforce Development' which focused on changes to the education curriculum and the department of Education.

A more pressing problem for the FBI is the President's executive order from January which has prolonged the current hiring freeze in the federal government.


One of the main problems for the bureau appears to be weed.

A human resources official explained in the 2015 report that while 5000 persons may apply to the FBI's cyber security division, only 2000 will meet the eligibility requirements.

The marijuana problem was highlighted by Motherboard in 2014, when FBI director James Comey (who has since gone on to make bigger and bolder headlines) made remarks that were quoted in the Wall Street Journal.

I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cyber criminals and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview.

Comey later clarified his beliefs before the US Senate (prompted by then Senator Jeff Sessions from Alabama), stating he is ‘absolutely dead-set against using marijuana’.

Nevertheless, the government's stringent 'no drugs' policy is in danger of excluding skilled candidates who just happen to love smoking weed in their spare time.

Writing for Broadly in March, Alyssa Mastromonaco - a top aide to former president Barack Obama, explained that in 2008 when she was undergoing security vetting by the FBI, she feared her own penchant for marijuana would get her and the candidate in deep trouble.

In preparation for a possible win in November 2008, vetting of senior staff began in October. One part of a lengthy FBI questionnaire asked if you had used drugs or controlled substances within the last seven years.

For hiring to the FBI, the requirement is to be drug free for three years.

In Mastromonaco’s case, the concern wasn’t the drug use, which she had stopped by the time of her first FBI interview, it was the danger she was open to blackmail.

Yet research by Pew found in 2016 that 57 per cent of Americans support legalisation of marijuana, and the majority of support was not restricted to Millenials or Generation X - 56 per cent of Baby Boomers were also supportive of legalisation.

With these figures in mind, and the number of states which have legalised marijuana, would it really have been possible to blackmail Mastromonaco?

A similar policy of preventing ‘blackmail’, while still ostracizing the actors concerned, was used in the Cold War. Homosexual civil servants in the British government often kept their sexuality a secret, because if they would found they could face dismissal.

Diversity and pay

In testimony given to the House Armed Services committee (adapted for Defense One) Peter Warren Singer highlighted a the lack of diversity in the bureau, and specifically its cyber security division, as another problem for recruiters.

According to Defense One, only 11 per cent of staff are women, which is even lower than the rates found in the comparable, and also male dominated IT industry.

Moreover, at every single level of the cyber security field, women are paid on average less than their male colleagues.

The 2015 report also recorded that low pay compared to the private sector was further damaging recruitment.

Recruitment and retention of qualified candidates remain a challenge for the FBI, as private sector entities are often able to offer higher salaries and typically have a less extensive background investigation process.

Essentially, if you’re a woman who loves weed and money, you’re more likely to join a tech start-up than the long arm of the law.

None of which bodes well for the cyber security of the US government.

HT Motherboard, Defense One, Broadly

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