Security Clearance

Inviting all WAG’s, IIRC’s, AFAIK’s, utterly baseless speculations, and any additional acronyms that come to mind.

I keep getting invitations to job offerings that require (federal) security clearance. Now, I personally think that our government is very, very silly for even wasting the paper to share these announcements with me, but it also gets me thinking: Would I have a snowball’s chance in hell of clearance?

Aside from obvious involvement in the typical suspicious activities (espionage/ conspiracy), what are they looking for? I understand that they can probe pretty far into one’s private life, but how tangential does this info get? What would they think of my collection of grateful dead bootlegs? My long-lost yearning to live on a commune? Agnosticism? This topic? Traffic tickets? Other. . .tickets?


“There is nothing you ought to do, for the simple reason that you know nothing, nothing whatever- make a mental note of that, if you please.”
-V. Nabokov

If you ever subscribed to any leftist magazines,were arrested(for anything),posted on the sdmb(oops!)

It depends on the level of clearance.

The lowest level, Confidential, is pretty simple. They just verify that you are who you say you are and that you are a U.S. citizen, not a felon, etc.

The next level, Secret, is more intrusive. They want to know where you lived for the last ten years, have you visited foreign countries, such as Canada (vacation travel is not a problem, or even foreign residence as long as it was for a valid reason). They also want to be sure there is no “adverse information” that could be used to coerce you into giving up secrets – this is the nosy part – infidelity, debts, gambling, etc. They will ask for references and they will check them.

Anything higher, Top Secret or better (there are other levels) requires all of the above plus a lie detector test, really intrusive personal information and more references. The references will be grilled extensively about you.

If you have a shady past, but it’s all been cleared up, you will probably get your clearance. If you have a shady present, or have some deep, dark secret that you don’t want anyone to find out about (and they’ll look for it) you probably will be denied.

In my experience, any work that required a clearance has been extremely boring and just overwhelmed with rules and regulations. If you can avoid it, IMHO, do.

OTOH, I have met and worked with people who had so much clearance they could hardly talk to you without giving something away, so they end up talking very cryptically with a lot of “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” kind of stuff. The few I’ve met who were like this enjoyed the hell out of it and were in great demand. So if you like to be mysterious, here’s a career path for you.


“And comb London’s teeming millions for him? Had we but world enough and time.”
Dorothy L. Sayers
Murder Must Advertise

A few years ago when I got mine (I was a civilian engineer working on airborne radar jammers for the military) they asked for a lot of details about your life - everywhere you’d ever lived, every phone number you’d ever had - and questions about a lot of things like drug use (past and present), sexual preferences, gambling habits, debt. I don’t remember anything about what organizations I belonged to or magazines I read, but it was a long time ago (just out of college).

As it was explained to me (notice I’m not saying I totally believed them), they were more interested in

  1. just knowing all about you from the start, so that you wouldn’t feel susceptible to blackmail for all those deep dark state secrets, than in judging what you’d done.
  2. your financial situation, so you wouldn’t feel as tempted to sell those secrets.

The worst thing about the whole deal, as I recall, was that when I lived in Europe (late 80’s, before the fall of the Iron Curtain) I didn’t travel to “the East” because they made the “debrief” out to be such a PITA.

Sometimes I still think of using to FOIA to find out what they discovered.

OOPS - simulpost with pluto.
Disregard above. His answer’s much better.

Actually, it depends what oraganization you get the clearance for. The DOD, as mentioned above, or the DOE, who is much more strict.

As he says, the low levels are pretty easy. The other thing they look for are obvious foreign contacts like wives.

The important thing is to be completely truthful on the form. They seem to think that the main mode of “foreign interests” forcing cooperation is to blackmail people, especially closet homosexuals. From what I have read, for Americans, at least, it is just plain ol’ profit motive (cash).

Anyway, you can have a lot of nasty stuff in your past, but do not let them find it after the fact.

And to second pluto’s post, yes, a lot of it is very dull work.

Here I was, working in a foreign country in a windowless room all day. On a flight once, I met a (british) fellow who was a fluent Russian speaker (journalist). I asked him to teach me a few choice phrases and on Monday I went to my “secret” job and, to liven things up, said “good morning comrades” in Russian. Of course shortly thereafter I was pulled aside and questioned as to “who is teaching you Russian?”. Absolutely no sense of humor, these guys.

FWIW, my brother worked for years at a defense contractor and never got a secret clearance. (I don’t know that it was essential for his job to have one, but it would have been useful.)

He had no criminal record and no membership in a “leftist” political party. However, he had grown up in a foreign country (Switzerland.) He was a US citizen since he was born in the USA.

J’ai assez vécu pour voir que différence engendre haine.

Wow, that was fast. I never suspected there were so many spies on SDMB.

The most recent ‘offer’ was for a non-nuclear proliferation org, however I also get fliers from NSEP pretty regularly. About twice a year, I get a mailing from a Certain Agency and associated branches, something cryptic and pleading, like “We’re really not that bad. Awwwww, c’mon guys. We still need you for some stuff. Man, pleeeeeease, ask your advisor about us.”

This query was really made sheerly out of curiousity. None of these job offers really much appeal to me, and I’m particularly down on the fact that they limit the field in which one may take a job for n-years following the position.

It’s interesting, though, to hear that I guess they don’t care if I’m a left-handed lesbian eskimo midget, as long as I’m comfortable enough in that that no one can blackmail me for it. . .

Various rightist people have said that President Clinton, security wise, is a dud. Specifically, because of some unaccounted-for travelling he did in the '70’s, he would probably be denied secret clearance if he had to apply for it like a regular government employee. Anyone else heard about this? If he spent time in the USSR, or somesuch, it would definitely explain the heavy socialist tint on alot of his policies. At the very least, it would explain why he and Boris Yeltson act like a couple of old beer buddies ;).

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

I’m no fan of Bill Clinton, but in all fairness, he just visited Russia as a tourist for a short while, about the time he was studying at Oxford.

(His KGB dossier must be pretty dull.)

Daddy worked for the Federal Gov’t. When he first applied, it took 6 months of F.B.I. background work. The job demanded something called “Q Clearance”. Nuclear secrets and whatnot. Now, this is all public knowledge, so don’t anyone get their doidies in a twist.
The Effa Bee Eye called EVERYONE we knew.Family, friends, creditors, the whole schmeg. I am sure they were irked that he came to America at the age of 9 from Nazi Germany- they couldn’t trace back to the day of his birth. Most people were mindless slugs, they never questioned anything they were asked. Besides, Daddy had nothing to hide. But…a good friend of Dad’s who was for his entire career a school administrator, got a call from the Field Office of the F.B.I. in the City ( which shall remain nameless) where we lived. They asked a question over the phone, after identifying themselves. He laughed at them, and said, " You must be kidding. I assume you are a student of mine. You want to talk to me, send not one but TWO Agents to my home, with I.D." Funny man. Less than 24 hours later, they were on his doorstep, in less than humorous spirits. I.D. at the ready.
Daddy got his clearance, enjoyed most of the job, did his 20+ years, and has retired. He had no issue with the Loyalty Oaths he had to sign, and swear to. Nor did he care about the background check, or the updates they did every 5 years. My brother and I knew, every 5 years for a few months, the phone service would get dirty and crackly. You could set your watch by it, too. Never failed, and cracked us up. Daddy found NO humor in this.
They ask what they need to. I’d tend to gush, and tell them my whole freaking life’s story ( the part that they missed since I left Mom and Dad’s house, anyway) if I was to apply for a job with the Gummint. Why bother? If you don’t want that level of intrusion, go to work in the private sector. These days, the intrusion may not be any less …intrusive ???

Cartooniverse :slight_smile:

" If you want to kiss the sky, you’d better learn how to kneel ".

Actually it probably wasn’t the FBI but rather the OPM (Office of Personnel Management). They are “Federal Investigators” and they do carry badges (I know the guy who was in charge of issuing them and has badge 007… but that is another story).

Yes, there are different levels of background checks depending on if you are just doing maintenance on a nuclear facility or if you are in charge of shredding/hiding Oswald’s CIA file. As I understand it, they are most interested in being able to account for where you were and what you were doing for the past 10 or so years.

I have a relative who was the regional director of the OPM… she decided to look up her brother… she got an x-files’ish “access denied.” She asked her boss to check and he got the same. Turns out he was working on the F-117 project (stealth fighter) many years before anyone admitted it existed.

On a related note… a college friend of mine was an office on a nuclear sub. I once asked him how fast they could go. He said “I couldn’t tell you.” I told him it worried me that an officer didn’t know. He responded “I didn’t say that I didn’t know… I said I couldn’t tell you.”

So the SDMB is chock full of operatives with various levels of security clearance . . . no wonder I couldn’t get any reponse on my questions about ECHELON . . .

Doghouse Reilly (Not my real name)

I used to work at Hanford (Richland, WA) and had a secret clearance. Took months to get it, and I had a shady past - sex, drugs, debts, etc. The absolute main thing is to not lie about anything (and I mean anything). I had no idea so many people remembered who I was after so many years, but they do go check you out and they do talk to everyone. Extensively. It wasn’t personal, however, and they didn’t give a damn what I HAD done, as long as they had the WHOLE list of what I had done. Theory is, if they already know about it, and have talked to everyone YOU know about it, then how the hell is anyone gonna blackmail you?


I was always amazed by the bureaucratic logic that denied security clearance to homosexuals. It went like this: We can’t give any job requiring security clearance to a homosexual, because foreign governments might find out he’s a homosexual, because then they could blackmail him with threats of exposure and loss of his job, because we can’t give any job requiring security clearance to a homosexual, …

Melatonin, I loved your Dead Milkmen reference.


PS. If you want to know look it up yourself. The song was something like Anderson, Lake, Buttholes and How. I don’t remember the exact title and was on Metaphysical Graffiti.

Gasoline: As an accompaniement to cereal it made a refreshing change. Glen Baxter

Hurrah! Someone got it! I’ll never (sniff, sniff) feel alone again.

And here I thought Bart Simpson and I were the only two Milkmen fans in the world. I came very close to using Beelzabubba as a user name.

Sorry, Spudmeister, but it’s not an anectdotal tale. I lived it. The shiny- and scarey -badges said, " FBI ".
Okay? I dont know who does it now-adays, but in 1974, I know what I read, and what everyone who had ANY contact with us read. :slight_smile:


" If you want to kiss the sky you’d better learn how to kneel ".