BFP Report: Meet the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘Distinguished’ Privacy Advisory Committee Members

Let’s See Who is Watching DHS Mega Fusion Center

GovSpyYesterday I came across an article on DHS plans to create its own internal fusion center so that its many agencies can aggregate the data they have and make it searchable from a central location. Let’s read a few excerpts from this typical half-hearted MSM attempt to provide a semi-complete picture of the state of ‘things’ when it comes to our government:

Information sharing (or lack thereof) between intelligence agencies has been a sensitive topic in the U.S. After 9/11, there was a push to create fusion centers so that local, state, and federal agencies could share intelligence, allowing the FBI, for example, to see if the local police have anything in their files on a particular individual. Now the Department of Homeland Security wants to create its own internal fusion center so that its many agencies can aggregate the data they have and make it searchable from a central location…

Of course this is another troubling development in an extremely troubling state of ‘things.’ However, this wasn’t the focus my attention. Here comes the not-really-reported angle in this half-covered story [All emphasis mine]:

The DHS is calling it a “Federated Information Sharing System” and asked its privacy advisory committee to weigh in on the repercussions at a public meeting in D.C. last month…

So what is this ‘privacy advisory committee’ and who are its members? This is what the article provides on that front: [Read more...]

Money for Nothing & Where have All Our Dollars Gone

$433 Million for a Disease that Hasn’t Been…

PerelmanDid you know that we haven’t had a single case of smallpox in the United States for over 60 years? To be exact, the last case of smallpox was in 1949. So, why would Obama hand out $433 Million, let’s put the zeros all in there to get a better sense, $433,000,000, on experimental smallpox drugs? Ain’t that a logical question to ask?

You see there is this billionaire guy. His name is Ronald Perelman, and he is one of the world’s richest men who happens to be a longtime Democratic Party supporter. This Obama-Backer Perelman guy owns stock in Siga Technologies Inc., which received the smallpox drug contract over the objections of specialists in the Department of Health & Human Services.

So, what happened to those who objected to this outrageous sum being paid for ludicrous unjustified experimentation? Well, the department’s lead negotiator for the deal who objected to Siga’s financial demands was replaced. Poof. Just like that.  

But wait, that’s not all. The Obama administration also blocked other companies from bidding on the work, to ensure that Siga received a non-competitive contract deal. [Read more...]

Government Contractor Galore A La UK: Serco

The Private-Government-Private Mega Corporations Phenomena

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The Makings of a Police State- Part V

The New Scarlet Letters: 'NC'

The Quest for Clearance

ClearFormIt was late spring 2007, and I had arrived right before sunset at Centerville’s new ‘in place’ for the 30 something techie crowd. I was supposed to meet two friends there, have a drink, and then head to the restaurant next door for an early dinner. As soon as I walked in I spotted both of them, and a third person, a man in his early thirties whom I’d never met before, I’ll call him ‘Joe,’ and headed towards their table. After brief introductions the trio resumed their conversation where they’d left off. The topic had to do with current hot jobs and the latest career trends in the area, which caters to the federal government…

I was listening only half-heartedly until one of my friends, a woman in her mid thirties who worked for a midsize travel agency, started talking about how she’d been waiting for the completion of the process to get her security clearance, and that she couldn’t wait to get ‘the darn thing,’ and with it her promotion and a 15% salary increase. Now that perked up my ears and grabbed my full attention. After all, I’d been intimately familiar with security clearances and related issues for several years and dealt with them extensively, working with hundreds of national security whistleblowers, and networking with attorneys. What I couldn’t understand was this:

Why in the world would a travel agent working in a private travel agency need or want to have a security clearance?!

So, I asked: ‘What do you need the clearance for?

And she responded: ‘The agency I work for has a contract with the federal government. We provide airline tickets, rental car and hotel reservations for some federal employees…’ 

I asked again: ‘So why do you need clearance to do that?

She said: ‘Well, the government agency requires that only those employees with security clearance handle their account, and since it is a fairly large account the travel agency I work for assigns several travel agents.

After a brief a pause it dawned on me, ‘Oh, I guess your account is with one of THOSE agencies…DOD, CIA… gotcha…

My friend interrupted: ‘No, actually it’s not. It’s the Department of Commerce. And it’s not even for their executive level people…just regular employees.

I kept asking myself why in the world the Commerce Department would require travel agents with security clearance to handle their good ole ordinary travel arrangements.

I guess I was thinking out loud because my friend tried to justify, well, at least her end of this deal: ‘The point is they pay much bigger bucks to my employer, and my employer pays those of us with clearance who handle this account 15% more in salary than the travel agents with no clearance who  have regular accounts…

I guess it made sense; perfectly. Government agencies don’t pay from their own pockets; they have at their disposal unlimited access to taxpayers’ dollars. So someone in The Department of Commerce apparently made this ridiculous rule - padded their civil servant status and importance - treated their inferiority complex from being placed much lower in the chain of civil servants (waaaayyy below the CIA, DIA, FBI…, ),and made it a requirement to have cleared travel agents handle their travel. As for the travel agency’s perspective: Hallelujah!!! They get a contract with the feds where they can pad their prices and never worry about having to give the best deal in terms of price/value. In fact pad it enough to pay 15% increased salaries to those on the fed account, and still have plenty of profit left.


TSC Compliance & Disclosure on Banging

As I was processing the above information and reasoning, the man, Joe, straightened his shoulders, and if I’m not mistaken, kind of puffed up his chest…you know the body language I’m talking about; right?

He said: ‘I’ve got TSC; Top Secret Clearance. I’ve had it for almost a year now. My pay went up 25% the day I got it.

Since the other two were obviously familiar with his line of work I was the one with the first question: ‘So who do you service?

He put on the coolest and most aloof expression he could manage, which ended up being neither cool nor aloof: ‘I can’t talk about it. All I can tell you is that I’m a software programmer and we’ve got big contracts all right…

I decided not to press ‘who for or why’, and instead, try to find out how much he understood of the significance of having TSC as a private sector employee, both positive and negative.

Obviously he considered the 25% increase in salary as the major positive; well, obviously. And considering his body language and tone he appeared to regard his clearance status as something ‘cool,’ ‘important,’ and ‘ego-boosting.’ He was single, so maybe he thought it made him more of a chick magnet…So I decided to see if he perceived any downside to having a TSC.

I asked him bluntly: ‘There are bunch of things you end up giving up for TSC; some would even say ‘they get you by the …’ don’t you think?

Joe, already on his third drink, nodded: ‘Yeah.’ And then he said something I was neither expecting nor prepared for, ‘It complicates everything in the banging department.’

After a brief pause I recovered:’ How so?

Joe: ‘Well, basically, you have to report who you sleep with and all the details if the girl is not a citizen, or has an accent or something.’ He continued, ‘About 8 months ago I met this hot woman with a cute accent and we hit it off right away…stayed together that weekend…and that Monday I had to go and report the entire thing...’

I probed for more details: ‘You mean report in writing? - Orally?

Joe:’ Both! First, I had to fill out this form, and then I was called in to answer questions and give more details…

I interrupted him: ‘No kidding! They have a form for this??! What’s it called, ‘Banging Disclosure Form? BDF?

If he got my sarcasm he didn’t show it, instead he continued very seriously: ‘Just a standard form to fill out general information on foreign persons you come in close contact with, name, nationality, etc. But once in the office for follow up, then they ask you all these details ‘What was her full name?’ ‘What’s her nationality?’ ‘Where does she live?’ ‘How many times did you do it? Over how long?’…you know!’

I nodded understandingly, and he went on: ‘I mean you don’t ask for your new woman’s exact date of birth! How am I supposed to know? Go through her bag for ID while she’s in the bathroom?!...They ask me where she’s from and I can’t even remember; Greece? Lebanon?... Anyway, I’m done with foreign or foreign sounding women…’

This was getting a bit too much for me; trying not to laugh at the absurdity. The man could only come up with, could only think of, one downside and that had to do with ‘chicks.’ And obviously to him Greece and Lebanon were almost the same, either geographically or linguistically. I couldn’t detect in him even a minute trace of political or legal understanding. So, I didn’t bother bringing up issues like:

What happens when you decide to publicly oppose the current butchering of our civil liberties and speak up about it? Won’t they use your TSC and threaten its removal, thus your employment? Or maybe you’ll decide on your own against speaking out; thinking self-preservation. Because in 2005 I received many e-mails/letters from people who told me they wished they could sign a certain petition against constitutional abuses, but they feared for their clearance and job security, so they felt and believed they couldn’t.

What happens when you or your spouse or your partner joins a rally, albeit a peaceful protest, against war(s) or other human rights abuses committed in our name? Won’t they use that constitutionally and democratically sanctioned action against your ‘clearance,’ your job, thus, against you? Because just last month when I called a good friend, who also happens to be antiwar, to join me in an antiwar rally in DC, she was almost in tears and told me she couldn’t because her husband had a clearance, and that they feared her participation in a rally might jeopardize that clearance and their livelihood.

What happens when you witness a criminal or fraudulent act related to your work, and since a contractor to the feds, one with consequences to citizens and taxpayers, and you rightfully feel obligated to report or disclose it to the public? Won’t they come after you with criminal prosecution threats for violating your clearance? Because many whistleblowers have been through this exact experience, and been left with no employment and almost no course of action.

No, I couldn’t tell him all that and more. Even if I did, what would my lone voice accomplish toward raising this guy’s awareness, when the media, the government, and all their related tentacles are doing the exact opposite? He believed he was cleared, he believed he was one of the chosen ones, and unless one day, even if by chance, he faces the dark realities of his valuable rights being substituted for being ‘cleared or chosen’, he’ll hang on to these beliefs.

The Nation of Cleared & Not Cleared

ClearLeashBased on GAO’s July 2009 data, about 2.4 million persons currently hold security clearances for authorized access to classified information. And this figure, 2.4 million, does NOT even include some of those with clearances who work in areas of national intelligence.

In fiscal year 2008 the Office of Personnel Management and the Defense Department processed about 450,000 requests for confidential, secret and top-secret clearances. According to bits and pieces of data here and there, there are over three million federal employees who require security clearances for jobs. These jobs range from: [Read more...]