Friday, February 12, 2016

On Getting A Security Clearance

A colleague of mine from the old days who, to my amazement, occasionally reads my blog, wanted to make very sure that I knew that there was no way I could ever get a security clearance, not even SECRET.

This disturbed me for reasons that I will explain below, and so I researched the topic to the extent that one can on the Internet, and I am happy to say that he is probably wrong, at least for the reasons that he thought. He might however be right for other reasons and this I will describe below.

You may not consider it interesting to wonder who can and can not get a clearance but I do, even though I have no particular expectation or desire to handle or know classified information. I am, you see, a *fan* of the world of intelligence, I have very little desire to be *in* it. It is a difficult world to be in for reasons we will only touch on here. I much prefer to *speculate* about national security matters than to actually *know* for sure what is going on. Speculation is fun, but actual knowledge implies a very serious responsibility. And the more you are involved the more it will affect your life. 

But if I am to ever work in place like the RAND Corporation again, which is doubtful, one needs to get at least a SECRET clearance, even though you are unlikely to handle SECRET material, and that is how the issue came up. The reasons for this are several, but it is not because one will necessarily be handling SECRET material. In fact, when I worked at RAND in my youth I only once handled SECRET material and that occasion could have been easily avoided. Trust me, it was no big deal. The primary reason for needing a clearance is because you are required to be around people and facility that does or may handle such material, and you need to be able to be in those areas without having an escort by your side at all times. 

So lets get our cards on the table. Some people at RAND thought I did a lot of drugs when I went into computer animation and visual effects. I did not. But I certainly was around quite a few people who did drugs, and I suffered from an undiagnosed disorder which made me appear to the uninitiated as though I was on drugs, i.e. I had severe ADHD which was not being treated. I am not going to go over this in great detail, frankly it bores me, most people already have their minds made up, and most people are not capable of understanding the issues anyway.

But what drugs I did do were minor, and stopped as soon as I got decent medical care, which did not happen in LA, only in NY. IMHO, there is no decent medical care in S. California.

The point is, none of this keeps one from getting a security clearance today. You have to not be doing illegal drugs today, and for several years. And there may be a judgment call here on the part of the investigators about certain aspects of your use at the time. However, there is nothing there that makes me particularly concerned. I used drugs to medicate a medical condition, when it was properly diagnosed and treated, all illegal drugs went away.

But there are other judgment calls that could interfere and I want to mention them to you today.

What they are really looking for with the basic security clearance is a somewhat boring individual who fits in with the system and feels that the system is pretty darn good. If you do not file taxes because you are impoverished, that may not be you. If you think your doctors are only concerned about themselves and money and that the medical system is fundamentally screwed up, that may not be you. If you think that the poor are treated badly in this country and that the legal system and government is designed to exalt the rich and disenfranchise the poor, and that there is gross state-enforced inequality of opportunity, that may not be you.

But the law and regulations on security clearances are not explicit on these points. And theoretically one should not be denied a security clearance for holding a belief that is outside some conservative belief system.

So, am I eligible for a security clearance? Without doubt, I *think* I am. But it is certainly *possible* I could be denied one. It is possible *anyone* could be denied one. And then one would have to appeal.

What would happen if I was suddenly exposed to a classified program that obviously violated the rights of Americans, or violated the law, or was outside the system designed to approve such projects? The answer is that I would work within the system to get such a project changed or terminated. I would not do an unauthorized disclosure under any circumstances. If it were not possible to correct the situation, then I would resign from the project and find something else to do. I think that it is very unlikely that I would ever have to deal with such an issue, however.

To the extent that one can figure out such things by what is published online, I believe that I am eligible for a security clearance.

Besides with the disaster that is or was Ed Snowden, I would think that the whole security clearance system would be up for reconsideration and that they would be much better off with people like me. Just my opinion.

For what that is worth.

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