"Trust but verify"

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

Albert Einstein, via quoteambition.com

After forty years employment, in the U.S. Navy and in industry, working with information and equipment that preserve the national security interests of the United States, I know a little something about “trust”. The selection of those who will be entrusted with protecting our nation is, and should be, as a result of a thorough investigation of personal history and sober assessment of individual character.

Investigating the “whole person”

To evaluate eligibility for positions of trust, the government uses a “whole person concept”. Revised in 2015, the Federal Government’s National Investigative Standards implemented a multi-tiered system of checks. These indicate the criteria a candidate will be evaluated prior to granting access to specific levels of “public trust”. Criteria are laid out in guidelines published in the (2017) “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information“. These guidelines, evaluate an individual in several areas including creditworthiness, alcohol or drug use, psychological fitness, or any past criminal conduct. And any past or ongoing foreign contacts. Factors such as nature and extent of the conduct, its frequency, if a candidate completed rehabilitation, may restrict the level, or exclude a person from obtaining access to information that is in the national security interest of the United States.

Sensitive or Classified information

Some employees will have access to sensitive but unclassified information like that on many computer networks used by government employees and contractors. In industry, much of this is proprietary internal company information. On Federal Government contracts, documents containing unclassified, but sensitive information bear “For Official Use Only” markings, abbreviated “FOUO”. For this level of access, a candidate’s creditworthiness or spending habits are not reviewed as part of the overall process. This level of investigative review is called the National Agency Check with Inquiries (NACI). However, for those whose duties will require granting of a federal government security clearance, the National Agency Check with Local Agency and Credit Checks (NACLC) is initiated. This reviews seven years of a person’s prior residences, work history, and creditworthiness. The Law Checks portion reviews any criminal or civil actions over the immediately prior five year period recorded in law enforcement or other public databases. This involves checks of a person’s fingerprints in local, state or national law enforcement archives. Investigators look closely at the issues, corrective or rehabilitative measures, and make judgement on the likelihood for further recurrence of those issues.

An SSBI is for personnel requiring a Top Secret or special access Government clearances

A more thorough investigation is the Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) which is the process by which a candidate is authorized access to TOP SECRET classification information and special access programs such as Secure Compartmented Information (SCI)). Formerly, the investigation began with a candidate completing a Standard Form-86 (SF-86), that lists a person’s residence, activities, education, travel, work history, personal contacts and references for the past ten years or to age 18, whichever is earlier. If the candidate has a co-habitant, his or her information is gathered and is as thoroughly investigated also. All listed information will be corroborated. Further, the SSBI will have personal interviews with the candidate’s neighbors, employers, coworkers, friends, as well as by telephone. For the last dozen years or so, an online form, e-QUIP, has replaced the SF-86 paper form. All of these clearances are of a finite term with a periodic re-investigation for continued access. And all cleared individuals acknowledge they are to never divulge what was entrusted to them without obtaining permission from the original Government agency which classified such information.

human beings are flawed

The reasons are obvious why the Government takes stringent measures (the glaring failures by certain politicians and bureaucrats notwithstanding) to protect national security information. One of the creeds that we had made into an sew- on patch in my early Navy career was “In God we trust; all others we monitor.” The reality is that all human beings have flaws. Some of these flaws, under certain conditions, can turn a trusted person into a liability. People commit espionage, bribery, careless or deliberate mishandling of information and equipment. An adversary of the United States can manipulate a targeted individual’s illegal or improper behavior, debts, sexual relationships, or other potentially embarrassing personal life, to make a host of bad decisions.

The news reports incidents where sensitive or classified information is conveyed to a private server of a government official. A contractor or military member steals information from a classified network and releases it on a public forum, which damages national security and reveals methods of collection or sources to adversaries as well as critics. Of course, not everyone reported in the twenty-four hour news cycle violates the national security interests of the United States. Congressmen embezzling campaign funds; sexual impropriety between senior managers and their subordinates; government officials, military members and DOD contractors who take bribes to steer lucrative contracts to domestic and foreign suppliers may not have compromised national security but have demonstrated the character failures that compromise public trust.

Big Corporation is watching

This week I received a phone call from the Veterans Administration, to ask me to submit a copy of my most recent DD-214,  the document that all veterans recognize as our Certificate of Release or Discharge from military service, which also provides the veteran with a validation for several federal and state benefits.

Since I am given to understand that the United States Government’s Executive Branch oversees the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense (DOD), and the DOD oversees the Department of the Navy, I am unsure how transmission of my Active Duty service record – and DD-214 for my second period of service (ending 17 years ago) – or at minimum, the DD-214,  failed to be transmitted to the records the Veterans Administration maintains (veterans are its customers).   Were it only a paper record, I could understand that millions of archival pages might be confusing for one file clerk with band aids on her thumbs and a dry sponge-pad (to moisten fingers) searching through file cabinets.   But for thirty years,  documents have been scanned into computer records.

pinterest_surveillance

In the most recent twenty years,  and particularly in the last ten years, there have been lobbying groups protesting the illegal monitoring/ harvesting of data purportedly on American citizens – and  our “undocumented guests” in the country.   College students, particularly at Ivy League universities, college professors,  Congressional investigations, anarchists camping out in the streets, and huge exposes by media – CNN, Politico, New York Times, and groups like the ACLU and so on, condemn BIG GOVERNMENT for purportedly nefarious purposes.

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Given my experience with Government, including data losses,  long delays between completing forms and receiving confirmation of receipt,  and even longer delays when requesting information, specific to the very thing the Government agency is responsible,   I have some reservation about how nefarious or how “omnipresent” Big Brother really is in our daily lives.   I am much more concerned with BIG CORPORATION (##).

Google, Facebook, other social media,  Microsoft, and so forth collect TRILLIONS of bytes of data daily on our finances, credit use, personal interests, sexual preferences, and other habits.  Anyone who has looked at a website on your computer or phone at work or at home should notice how quickly all your other devices start to send you “tailored” advertising.      And knowing that criminals, foreign governments, and non-state bad actors are often way more proficient with data mining than our own GOVERNMENT,  I would not be surprised to hear my Progressive, aka Liberal, friends be embarrassed one day in the future to learn that buying the Birkenstock and Hillary Clinton’s autobiography from the web, will also come with a free sample of Russian borscht or Chinese travel vouchers.

(##)   since I served and presently work where my privacy is understood to NOT be a sacred thing – the Government has maintained records on me since I was 18 years old – I am not willing, nor able to drop off  “the Grid” anytime soon

Thermite games

Among my peers in the world of Navy cryptologic operations,  we enjoyed a sense of humor that few civilians might understand.  To this very day,  when friends or family ask me about my work, I will likely smile, then say, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.”    I do not get asked very much about my work.

Today,  when recalcitrant equipment that I either test or provide customer with needed support and repair,   I always have a smart-aleck response as my double-secret probation/ inside-voice, final debug plan.   Put it in a barrel and light off some Thermite.   But then, I am hired to fix it;  it is up to my bosses to determine when the expense outweighs the continued troubleshooting.

Very early in the 1990’s, particularly as some hotspots in the world – where intelligence-gathering was not collected from 60,000 feet or a hundred miles in altitude as it may be today, but on the ground – my unit held a demonstration of classified material emergency disposal.   This was the chemical destruction capability of THERMITE.   Given a few minutes to dispose of the contents of a large safe,  personnel might not have time to shred documents;   some equipment that shouldn’t fall into the wrong hands could not be physically destroyed by physical effort.  Ergo,  a thermite grenade could be ignited, placed in or on it, and the object would be reduced to ash and molten slag.

However, history taught me that this material might have been more for show than practical use.   When the U.S. Embassy in Tehran was seized in 1979,  if some stories are to be believed,  shredded documents were reassembled  by people working furiously over months.  When the Iranians again seized our personnel during the Obama Presidency,  was there Thermite to obliterate our crypto gear on board? was it destroyed?  If jettisoned overboard, was it recovered?

And in the digital world of  identity theft,  credit reporting thefts, and hacking,  there’s nothing to render data irretrievable but for military-grade encryption.  And yet it often depends on human beings to practice security.   Of course my mind runs to a different form of “thermite”, but if we cannot find the provocateurs, cannot render them sanitized.

Here’s one video demonstration of this material:

http://www.military.com/video/ammunition-and-explosives/grenades/the-thermite-grenade/983538042001

Vampire…Vampire…Vampire

Every time I see a car with a bumper sticker “COEXIST”, I am given to wonder why these probably well-intentioned, folks are so ignorant of history and many are so rabidly determined to shut out any comment, observation, or objection.  The world is a dangerous place, and the people who see aggressors as victims and victims as aggressors are generally unable, unwilling, or unprepared to find real solutions -other than bumper stickers and molotov cocktails.  Here’s a refresher from 2006.   Via the Chinese and the Iranians, the terror group Hezbollah continues to be weaponized….

Source: Vampire…Vampire…Vampire 

“10 – 80 – 10” might explain everything

I was once (still?)  a cynic.   I started to consider years ago that ten percent of people were the top intellectuals, philanthropists, inventors, artists, and warriors (I was in the military at the time).   That also got me thinking about all the gloom-ers, doomers, and desperado,  folks whom I likened to the bottom “ten-percenters”.  In the middle were the remaining eighty percent who either were sketchy, but not necessarily “bad” or the more reasonable just-trying-their-best-to-get-by folks.   In a world today where people determine the answer they want first, and go in search of, or create the evidence they need to support their pre-determined answers,  it seems unnatural to work the other way round.   So I came up with an 10/80/10 proposition.   I have not conducted rigorous research.  During my worst cynical days and weeks,  personal experience and social media provide me a predetermined answer in search of validation.   I often apply it to everything that humanity touches.   Continue reading

In memoriam

Their feet rush into sin;
    they are swift to shed innocent blood.
They pursue evil schemes;
    acts of violence mark their ways. Isaiah 59:7

Prayers go out tonight to the victims of yet another terror attack in London.  Mayhem and murder committed by corrupt men.   In London, Manchester, Kabul or Manila the violent seem to strike randomly.

What these acts of terror have generated however is a resolve among the population to oppose evil.  While many, myself included want to take up arms to defend against these monsters,  those who prowl around looking to shed blood (1 Peter 5: 8) are ultimately opposed by love.  When children no longer are taught to hate from remote corners of the world, then terror will have no power here.

 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  

-1 Corinthians 13: 4 -7

 

May memories

A lot changes in forty years. In  May, 1977,  prior to my departure for Boot Camp at Naval Training Center, San Diego in October,  I was graduating high school.   Jimmy Carter was President, a fact that I thought, being a former naval submariner officer, would make him an excellent leader.   People didn’t want Gerald Ford as he had pardoned ‘criminal’ Richard Nixon, but I remember him for sending in Marines to retrieve the Mayaguez, which had been seized by the Khmer Rouge a month after the last battle involving U.S. troops of the Vietnam War.

In those last two years of the Seventies,  the Zumwalt-era of loosened grooming standards – longer hair, mustaches and beards worn by Sailors were okay.  Dungarees (bell-bottom style) and dixie cups, were the working uniform.   Pot was a problem on military bases including San Diego.   A community that now is marked by the upwardly-mobile, well-heeled beach crowd, Ocean Beach, was then a place where druggies and ex-military,  tattoo parlors and bars were less restrictive than up the coast near the UCSD campus.

A visit over the Coronado Bridge to the Naval Station Coronado, where carriers were berthed was my first view of a ship – the USS Recruit was a wood and metal reproduction on the Recruit Training Command, to introduce us to naming convention, etc – so did not count.  The ‘aroma’ of the interior of the USS Kitty Hawk was the first ‘knock out’ that I will never forget.  Jet fuel, grease, human sweat, urinals and generally,  the stink of at times, 3500 men (no women then) wafted fresh new sailors who had more recently been accustomed to PINE SOL clean scent.

At the time, I was a student learning to work on complex electronics and mechanical maintenance of teletypes.  Where I now cannot see without at least one or two orders of magnitude, I was able then to discern two from three centimeters adjustments.  The instructor was quite ADAMANT about that ability before graduation.   We had Iranian military students – this was prior to the Iranian Revolution – and when they were recalled by their government,  we were relieved.   Suffice it to say that American and Iranian hygiene were on different tracks.

In May of 1982,  with several of my fellow Russian Language students and the professor – I was able to travel  to Russia – prior to the end of the USSR (1989) – visiting cities – St Petersburg, Moscow, Kiev and Tbilisi.  If only for all but one – a socialist-  the trip was very informative and probably saved them and their future families from the ‘snowflake’ sensibilities, the mantra of “coexistence” and “socialism’s great”.  The people may have been interesting and interested, but the economy was a shambles. Ambition was reserved for the underground economy — some of whom are today’s Russian millionaires and billionaires.

In May of 1984,  I had been out of the Navy four years, attending the university in Tucson, Arizona.  Four three of those four years I had been actively involved in the Veteran students organization on campus,  and while peers were pursuing commissioning programs,  I was looking toward a government job after graduation.  Strangely,  in my second year after graduation,  when my graduate school plans went unfunded – I re-enlisted in the Navy -Reserve – that is.  The entreaties of one of my friends finally had me join his unit, only to see him quit!

After petitioning to resume an Active Duty career in 1987,  the next major May milestone I recall was May of 1997 when I was transferred from Norfolk, Virginia to San Diego, California.    1970 Dodge Chargers, if you could find one in decent shape were then ten thousand dollars or more,  homes which had been an unheard of, eighty thousand dollars – for an ocean view, were nearly eight hundred thousand,  and NTC was closed but for a few administrative medical functions.

And in the twenty years since that time,  friends and mentors went to war in Afghanistan and Iraq,  the Soviets became Russian trade partners, the Chinese became the world’s second-most powerful economy, the Islamic world tried to separate the economic need for the non-Islamic world – from the ideology that wants to reduce infidels to ashes,  and we are again at some form of odds over military preparedness against the adversaries that were no longer adversaries?