One of the advantages (okay, perhaps the only advantage) of my slowly advancing years is that I notice when things change. For instance, just recently, I noticed some changes to the Standard Form 86, the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions.” For the uninitiated, this is the form we use to account for basically our entire lives before we can get a government security clearance.
Section 29 of the SF 86 asks seven questions, six of which are variants of “are you or have you ever been a terrorist”. But the last question asks: “Have you EVER participated in militias (not including official state government militias) or paramilitary groups?” [Emphasis in the original.] I don’t remember this question from 20 years ago, or even ten years ago.
So . . . why are they asking it now?
Keep in mind that this is the only question they ask about what in and of itself is a legal activity. For instance, given our security situation today, I would think it would be much more useful to ask if me if I was a Muslim (or a Scientologist for that matter). But they don’t. Instead, they ask a half-dozen questions about activities that are actually against the law.
So why pick on militia members? Islam has directly motivated multiple terrorist attacks on Americans, but has a “militia” ever been implicated in a criminal conspiracy in a case that hasn’t fallen apart at the first objective look, a la the Hutaree fiasco?
I haven’t looked in on the militia movement lately, but I’m pretty sure that most of them consider themselves patriots. I would think them especially unlikely to pass national security information to foreign intelligence agencies.
The SF86 also has some new questions about computer hacking. Section 27 has three questions asking for the details of any unauthorized access, alteration, or destruction of information on any IT system. To be fair, this is obviously wrong. But there are a lot of wrong things that people do. The SF86 asks about only a fraction of them. How did hacking make the list?
I’m wondering how much these questions have to do about national security and how much they have to do about status competition: a way for the government to signal who it likes and who it doesn’t like.
. . . .
In related news, Steve Jobs had a top secret security clearance:
[T]he information included in the investigation mirrors some of the challenges faced by investigators today – past drug use, a series of legal actions requiring research and investigative hours and conflicting reports from colleagues and associates concerning Jobs’ personal character and personality.