Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How Security Makes Me Stupid

Part of an Occasional Series: The Things I Do for Love

Right now I am being investigated for a Top Secret security clearance. No, this does not mean that I know if there are any space people, or who killed JFK, or anything of the sort. You’ll practically die of boredom when I tell you why I need this clearance: to sit in on a few meetings at work. Right now I have a preliminary clearance, but a full investigation has to be done to make it permanent.

It’s a long process. You really can’t be too careful these days. And, truth be told, it’s been pretty painless so far. I had to fill out a form listing everywhere I’ve lived and worked in the last decade, who my friends and associates are, if I have any offshore business holdings, and whether I am a member of any militia or radical groups (answer: no). Then a bunch of investigators fanned out across the United States and began interviewing my friends, my in-laws' friends, former employers, etc. Today was my interview. I sat down with a very nice investigator, and answered one question after another for 30 minutes. And what was that like?

It was like going to the most confusing job interview of your life. The investigator’s job is to cover any aspect of my personal history that may cause embarrassment to the U.S. government, or render me unfit for my job. They aren’t digging up dirt just to be mean. It all starts pretty tamely, with us going over the form I originally turned in. Then the questions start. They went a little, but not exactly, like this:

Have I ever been critical of the US government? Yes, I’m a Democrat.
Do you have any gambling debt? No.
Have you ever been arrested? No.

Then the questions get a little repetitive. Maybe that catches people in a lie, or wears you down until you can’t lie.

Have you ever been arrested?
Have you ever been arrested for….(interminable list of sins)?
Have you ever been arrested for an illegal sex act?
Have you ever had an addiction to sex?
Are you an alcoholic?
Have you ever had a romantic relationship with a foreign national?
If so, what nationality?
Did he pick up the check at dinner or did you go Dutch?
Have any of your friends or associates been arrested?
Have any of your friends or associates done things for which they could have been arrested?
Have you done illegal drugs?
Have you done illegal drugs while driving?
Have you been arrested for doing illegal drugs while driving?
Have you while driving arrested anyone for doing illegal drugs?
Have you while doing illegal drugs arrested anyone for driving?

At this point, truthfully, you’re a little confused. I might have made up the last few questions. In fact, I probably made them all up. I had to stop the interview in a couple places and say, “Hey, didn’t you just ask me that?” Then the questions become much longer and more drawn out. By the time you get to the end of the question, you’ve forgotten what the beginning was all about.

Do you have any offshore business holdings or financial investments in other countries which should have been taxed in the United States but you haven’t paid because you’re a very, very bad boy or girl who is loyal to other countries and perhaps student radical groups?

By the end of the interview, I didn’t even know who I was anymore. I was a blob of quivery, slimy human Jell-O. It was kind of hilarious. But simply being asked about my nonexistent illegal sex activities and offshore holdings made me want to crawl under my desk. Afterwards, I wondered if I had squandered my youth by working and paying taxes, rather than developing offshore corporations and romancing a string of foreign nationals.

But I guess that’s the point. If I really was an anarchist, slimeball, sex freak, or embezzler, I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep my “story” straight. So, I’ll end this on an up note: hooray for America! USA! USA!

ClipArt crusade update: I am ClipArt, hear me roar! I just tried to find some business ClipArt, and there were 12 sharp, successful looking ClipArt businessmen. Briefcases tucked under the arm, sleek suits, ready to climb the corporate ladder (corporate ladder can be found in separate folder). Meanwhile, there was only one forlorn businesswoman. Frizzy hair, frumpy suit, sad expression. So I guess the message there is, don’t get a career girls, or the boys won’t ask you out! Sigh.


Merrill said...

If only you had answered "yes" to some of the "offshore corporations" or "foreign national illegal drug sex" questions -- then they ask you to be a senator!

Michael J. West said...
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AmySz said...

Back in the good old days you could get a top secret clearance while being housemates with an illegal alien from Iran! (I speak from experience.)