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354 comments

Pointless (3, Funny)

GWLlosa (800011) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418789)

Because the rover drivers might use the rover to suicide-bomb.... something. That crater over there, maybe?

Re:Pointless (5, Insightful)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418835)

We must not underestimate the bounds and abilities of the terrorists, they may have infiltrated any and all parts of our government, and it our responsibility. . nay, our duty, as freedom-loving Americans to find them and bring them to justice. These background checks are only a preventative measure, to ensure that government employees have the utmost integrity and loyalty. So long as nothing suspicious shows up on these reports government employees have nothing to fear, we must all sacrifice something in the battle against terrorism.

(I pray that I never hear anything like this. . .)

Re:Pointless (2, Insightful)

Urusai (865560) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418897)

That a McCarthy quote (s/terrorist/Communist/)?

Re:Pointless (1)

ookabooka (731013) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418937)

heh, no I just made it up; the language and content are eerily similar. . .Tried to capture the whole "reasonable on the surface" thing with "slippery slope" kind of thing.

you missed one... (3, Insightful)

schwaang (667808) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419269)

[NASA Administrator Michael Griffin] said that it was a "privilege to work within the federal system, not a right"

Re:you missed one... (3, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419433)

Actually, since it is a government job, and there are equal opportunity laws, if someone is the most qualified and wants the job, it IS a right.

Re:you missed one... (1)

schwaang (667808) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419569)

I'm with you on sentiment, but has anyone ever challenged conditions of employment like the McCarthy-era loyalty oaths and actually won?

Myself, I've turned down or not applied for jobs that required more privacy invasion than I felt was justified for a given job, and I let them know why.

Re:Pointless (3, Interesting)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418839)

Because in the last year we've seen a homicidal astronaut drive across the country wearing a diaper, a sabotaging contractor, and allegations of alcoholic astronauts. All they need is an astronaut getting busted having gay bathroom sex.

Re:Pointless (5, Funny)

fred fleenblat (463628) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419107)

>> All they need is an astronaut getting busted having gay bathroom sex.

Oh man, stay the *%# out of the ISS men's room. Everyone knows it's a meat market in there.

Re:Pointless (1)

bladesjester (774793) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419167)

allegations of alcoholic astronauts

Excuse me while I put on "To Steer on Mir" by the Capitol Steps.

Are new recruits ready for intoxication session!?

Re:Pointless (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419209)

Because in the last year we've seen a homicidal astronaut drive across the country wearing a diaper, a sabotaging contractor, and allegations of alcoholic astronauts.

As civil servants, the alleged homocidal and alcoholic astronauts were already vetted by the same background checks the JPL scientists are currently being subjected to.

Re:Pointless (4, Funny)

RealAlaskan (576404) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419357)

All they need is an astronaut getting busted having gay bathroom sex.

Can't have that! Everyone knows that's for U.S. Senators [washingtonpost.com] only!

Can't have the riff-raff acting like the quality folks, no sir!

More of the same (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418975)

I don't know what it's going to take to get people to understand the extent to which the US government is being destroyed by conservatives.

The conservative movement is, was, and always will be about destroying the US government, by any means necessary. The fact that their junta has seized control of the White House makes it all the easier to persue their anti-US agenda.

When you realize the extent that they hate America, everything they have done since Nixon (and especially since 2000) makes perfect sense.

Re:Pointless (1)

the_other_one (178565) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419553)

Because the rover drivers might use the rover to suicide-bomb.... something. That crater over there, maybe?

Those rovers on Mars are travelling at tens of KILLometers per second relative to the earth. Can you imagine how much damage one of those would cause if it were to hit a ranch in Texas.

In Soviet USSA... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418819)

Space Agency spies on YOU!

Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (4, Insightful)

nbarriga (877070) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418851)

How the hell asking those kind of things helps prevent terrorism?(which is the stated goal according to the article) And anyway, even if it did help I wouldn't agree.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (1)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418889)

Tell us all the sensitive and private stuff, so no one can blackmail you by threatening to expose it later! Clever...

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (3, Insightful)

Ajehals (947354) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419193)

Yeah AFAIK that's fairly standard, ensure there are no angles for blackmail and ensure that their financial position is OK.

So for people with access to sensitive information you do in depth and quite invasive checks, the more sensitive the information you have access to the more invasive the information required for clearance (well more comprehensive anyway)

For people with no access to sensitive information, carry out a minimal background check and ensure that there are no glaring issues and then ensure that they have support and feel that they can tell their employer about their gambling addiction/cross-dressing using some sort of sensitive mechanism (wont stop all blackmail but its a decent start and if they are blackmailed they cant give anything away anyway.)

Most important - make sure that those without clearances DO NOT have casual or informal access to information that they are not cleared to see.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (3, Funny)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419105)

Well, I'm not saying I agree with it, but here's a possible line of assumptions they could be following:

1. Most extremists are Muslims
2. Islam forbids homosexuality
3. Homosexuals are not likely to be Muslim extremists

Therefore, it should be safe to hire gays...

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (2, Insightful)

G Fab (1142219) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419201)

secret gays can be blackmailed. overt ones are fine, of course.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (4, Funny)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419263)

So maybe they are really checking the gay ones to make sure they are ACTUALLY gay and not terrorist gay-fakers?

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419609)

Correction: secret gays with access to sensitive information can be blackmailed. NONE of the 28 people filing suit work on classified work. These are scientists studying things like star formation and Martian geology.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419497)

everyone thought:

1. most conservative anti-homosexuals congressmen are Republican
2. Republican platform is anti-homosexual
3. Homosexuals are not likely to be Republican congressmen

but now we know old Republican congressmen cruise for cock in the public bathrooms and suck underage congressional pageboy schlong.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419235)

Well, he's probably a terrorist if he has typical sexual relations with his wife of 25 years. Furthermore, he's probably a terrorist if he's only making a typical scientist's salary of $75000.

Why do we know he's a terrorist? Because Republicans would never live in such a fashion, and we all know they're totally against terrorism. They're too busy giving or getting blowjobs from random strangers in public washrooms at night. They're too busy making millions by sucking up to fundamentalist religious groups, or otherwise defrauding the American public. So it's obvious that anyone who isn't doing such things is a major threat.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419349)

I seem to recall a high-profile case about blowjobs in the late '90s... I think there was something about a Oval Office intern, and a cigar, and something about a blue dress. Oh wait yah, he was a Democrat. Nevermind, that's totally OK.

Carry on.

Re:Medical records? Finances? Sexual life? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419589)

Dude, Republicans are Democrats, and Democrats are Republicans. There's essentially no practical difference. The Democrat response to the past six years is a testament to that fact. If they really were different from Republicans, that is to say that they had differing opinions and ideals, then there wouldn't be American troops in Iraq. There wouldn't be the PATRIOT Act. There wouldn't be domestic wiretapping. There wouldn't be this sort of nonsense.

thats the stupidest thing ive heard... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418919)

they must fill out a form online about employment history, past residences and any illegal drug use.
which illegal drugs do you currently or in the past partake? [ ]pot [ ]crack [ ]meth [ ]heroin [X]all of the above ya right

Re:thats the stupidest thing ive heard... (2, Insightful)

_merlin (160982) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419165)

Well, if you say you've never used illegal drugs, and then later they find out you used to smoke the occasional jazz cigarette with your highschool buddies, they can nail you for signing a false statement when they decide they want you in jail. Perfect! Just like that green form I fill in when I go to the USofA on business that asks if I'm a spy for a foreign government, or if I'm entering the US with the intention of committing a crime - like anyone would ever answer "yes". It's just so you have one more thing to nail you for (i.e. you didn't just enter the US with the intention of committing a crime, you also signed a false declaration) if they need to.

Re:thats the stupidest thing ive heard... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419545)

Filling out a security clearance comes with a nice disclaimer that if you lie at all on the 50 pages that follow, they can prosecute you and send you to PMITA prison. And yeah you have to sign the sheet acknowledging that. And you have to acknowledge it to the investigator who gives you the nice face to face interview as well.

Checking "yes, I have" does not automatically remove you from the clearance pool. Answering "Yes, I currently do" likely will though. I know several people with TS that answered yes. Not as huge of a deal as you might think.

Levers (5, Informative)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418939)

If you peruse my website and/or posting history you'll see that I'm against almost everything the government does. That said . . .

I held a TS with SBI once upon a time. The main reason for background checks, as I understand it, is to ferret out any levers that could be used against you by hostile agent. Too much debt? We'll get you out of trouble if you give us info. Cheating on your wife? With a man?! It would be a shame if we had to call her. Think of your kids.

It's not that they're morally judging you, its that they're making sure that you're not unduly susceptible to influence.

It's not fair, but it's not about fairness.

-Peter

Re:Levers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419003)

"It's not that they're morally judging you, its that they're making sure that you're not unduly susceptible to influence."

Which would be very important if you were working with classified material. These people are not. Everything they do is in the public domain and presumably accessible to anyone under FOIA.

Re:Levers (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419091)

Which would be very important if you were working with classified material. These people are not. Everything they do is in the public domain and presumably accessible to anyone under FOIA.

Not true. NASA is involved with the design and launch of CIA/NSA spy satellites as well as some Air Force stealth (Area 51/Groom Lake) stuff.

Re:Levers (1)

Svartalf (2997) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419127)

The biggest problem with that line of reasoning is that most of the people in question don't even have access to that sort of stuff- nor could they.

It's one thing if you're going for a job that actually needs access to Secret or Top Secret classified data. These people don't- so why even GO there in the first place?

Re:Levers (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419601)

I'm kind of on thin ice here, but I don't think I'm going too far by describing your post as, "Adorably naïve."

-Peter

Re:Levers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419295)

Ummm... did you not RTFA? Some of these people only agreed to work for NASA under the provision that they would NOT deal with classified documents (in other words, the specifically asked for non-sensitive work so that it could be peer-reviewed).

Re:Levers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419757)

The suit was filed by 28 JPL employees against NASA, none of whom hold sensitive positions. Yet, they are still required to fill out a "questionnaire for non-sensitive positions" (SF85) that includes drug usage, draft registration numbers, etc., and sign a release that gives "any investigator" of "any federal agency" the right to obtain any information they want for an investigation that is "not limited."

See http://hspd12jpl.org/ [hspd12jpl.org]

The questionnaire that kicks of their background investigation is here: http://hspd12jpl.org/files/sf85.pdf [hspd12jpl.org]

Re:Levers (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419337)

It's not just classified material that they're worried about, they're also concerned with access to facilities, opportunities for sabotage, and industrial espionage. Not everything that's sensitive is classified secret or higher.

-jcr

Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (5, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419013)

held a TS with SBI once upon a time. The main reason for background checks, as I understand it, is to ferret out any levers that could be used against you by hostile agent. Too much debt? We'll get you out of trouble if you give us info. Cheating on your wife? With a man?! It would be a shame if we had to call her. Think of your kids.

It's not that they're morally judging you, its that they're making sure that you're not unduly susceptible to influence.

This is a BS excuse. Anyone wanting to blackmail someone can always either dig up a truth, or manufacture a lie, that is good enough to "get the job done."

Want to make someone look like they're on the take? Deposit 20k in their bank account in cash. Then, a week later, before they get their bank statement, meet and greet them, and tell them what you've done, and how "gee, its going to look like drug money - do this shit for us, and we'll "fix it"". Better yet, make a lump-sum payment on their mortgage for them, when they're swimming in debt over their heads.

Want to make someone look like they're cheating on their spouse? Photoshop to the rescue. Especially if you have some unshopped pictures of the victim and the "sex object" elsewhere - for example, approach them in a restaurant, sit at their table for a minute asking for directions, and getting them to make a sketch.

Want to make someone look like a pedophile? Dump pics on their computer at work. (boot off usb, copy pics to drive, mission accomplished. Worst-case scenario, you'll have to connect the drive's cable to another machine as a slave for a few minutes).

There are ALWAYS ways to blackmail someone. If NASA believes that these sorts of background checks really work, they've been breathing too much vacuum.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (0, Offtopic)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419147)

Your argument is equally horseshit. It is like saying that women should be on the front line, equally, with men. No, they shouldn't. I will tell you that a woman POW will get raped dozens of times a day, a situation for most far worse than death. You will tell me that the enemy can equally rape a man just as much. SURE they CAN.... but it doesn't work that way in real life.

If you look dirty or smell dirty, or taste dirty, regardless whether you think you are or not, you are dirty. This is how a faceless corporation will see it. This is how the stock holders will see it. This is how the voters will see it. No one said life was fair.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (2, Funny)

Gailin (138488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419489)

/em throws a little gasoline on TheRealMindChild's straw man.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

SL Baur (19540) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419411)

Want to make someone look like they're on the take? Deposit 20k in their bank account in cash.
This particular attack is not going to work. Any cash transaction 10k and over must be reported to the IRS so there is going to be a paper trail (if they're allowed to do it at all, bank laws here really suck now - financial privacy is only for the elite).

Probably more effective would be to make a series of deposits just under 10k (to avoid the reporting requirement) and make it look like tax evasion.

Protecting against blackmail made sense when it was the Soviet government and the KGB you were dealing with. They could and did do those kinds of things. A terrorist (as opposed to a freedom fighter) is fundamentally an irrational and stupid person. I don't think there's any proof that a terrorist organization has ever used blackmail as a weapon.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

azadrozny (576352) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419529)

My understanding that the 10k threshold policy has been recently modified. Banks must report any "suspicious" transactions. Odds are, depositing 9,999 is going to draw just as much attention, or even 5k, every other week too. Everyones bank accounts probably show a regular pattern of activity. If you have been getting paid 3k every other week for the last 3 years, then "extra" deposits show up, for any ammount, you are going to get reported.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419573)

My ATM allows up to 50k per day. You can always find what are known as "pret-noms" - name-lenders - who, for a percentage, will let you "borrow" their account to do the transaction, then claim identity theft.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

The One and Only (691315) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419791)

I don't think there's any proof that a terrorist organization has ever used blackmail as a weapon.

You know, I wouldn't exactly sit around waiting for them to make the first move. Everyone goes apeshit about airline security after they hijack jets, but then they bomb a train while you're looking away. Only defending against a tactic after the enemy uses it is a good way to lose.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

mikee805 (1091195) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419419)

Also more on the same point why does someone have to have a reason? So I have a few thousand in my savings and no real debt. Does that mean I wouldnt like a few thousand more?

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419623)

"Also more on the same point why does someone have to have a reason? So I have a few thousand in my savings and no real debt. Does that mean I wouldnt like a few thousand more?"

Exactly. We pay politicians a lot more than the average, but they still end up sucking at the corporate teat and forgetting who actually voted for them. Or look at all the CEOs who take more than they're entitled to (Martha Stewart, Conrad Black, Ken Lay ...)

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419535)

This is a BS excuse.

No it isn't. It isn't BS, it isn't an excuse.

It is based an actual experience, something you seem to lack familiarity with. As opposed to fantasy, which you seem to be intimate terms with.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (1)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419543)

Let's stipulate that everything you say is true, just for the sake of argument. That still leaves me with a two word retort:

Due diligence.

Maybe "the bad guys" have some super-agent that can crack any espionage target. What world do you live in where you think the powers will (or should!) throw up there hands and say, "Hey, your privacy is more important than any of this shit we're doing. We don't care if you raise chickens as sex slaves and applied for Afghani citizenship last month."?

-Peter

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (4, Interesting)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419685)

Oh, come off it. Sreening for "levers to blackkmail" actually makes it EASIER to blackmail someone first, by validating the whole "you can be blackmailed for this" experience, and second, by putting that information where it can be stolen by a mole. 50 years ago, people could be blackmailed for having sex before marriage. Now, who gives a shit? Its about time we grew up on the rest of the blackmail issue - that you can only be blackmailed for something if society continues to see it as a dirty little secret.

Honestly, its time for the US population to stop thinking like Miss Carolina and just grow the fuck up. Nobody gives a shit if you're gay, lesbian, bi, or straight, or you cheated on your spouse, or you have debt, or you used illegal drugs, or you have a Britney Speares collection. Nobody. And the sooner the government makes this their official position, and sends a clear signal to the rest of society, the sooner blackmail for this sort of crap will no longer be possible.

Of course, the odds of that happening with Idiot Bush in charge are nill.

Re:Levers + bullshit = more of the same stupidity. (2, Insightful)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419555)

While they could theoretically do that, doing it to random joe patriot is far more likely to get you into trouble. For example, if you tried to do that to me, I'd report it. Am I going to get questioned? Certainly. Is it going to be pleasant questioning? Probably not. Will I get to keep the money? Most likely not. Might they try to make me a double agent(the old spy you know)? Possibly.

Better yet, make a lump-sum payment on their mortgage for them, when they're swimming in debt over their heads.

Little bit of ignorance here: This is specifically one of the things I look for. I knew somebody once who got to spend a year cleaning the dorms because he lost his clearance over debt(expensive truck on an E3 pay doesn't work).

Want to make someone look like a pedophile? Dump pics on their computer at work. (boot off usb, copy pics to drive, mission accomplished. Worst-case scenario, you'll have to connect the drive's cable to another machine as a slave for a few minutes).

You'll have to get to that machine, and if they can do that, blackmailing the guy is unnecessary. Forget the usb boot - all you need is a key logger. You now have the passwords, and can own the machine.

USB boot is going to be disabled for critical systems anyways.

There are ALWAYS ways to blackmail someone.

It might mostly psychological, but blackmailing somebody who's innocent is far riskier than somebody who's guilty. The innocent is much more likely to blare out the situation to the world.

One of the worst cases of espionage involved a sailor who, because of his gambling debts, actually walked into the USSR embassy and offered to sell secrets. He handed out cryptographic material like candy, stuff that would have been worth millions, for mere thousands of dollars.

While security investigations are not a sure thing, they're far better than nothing. A person in serious debt is more likely to sell out secrets than one who isn't. A person with a hidden secret(like being gay), may do something stupid to try to keep it under wraps.

Re:Levers (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419183)

Asking about this stuff is Catch-22, though.

If our society (and its individuals) can get past feeling shame at normal human activity, then all leverage goes out the window.

For example, if Senator Craig had owned up to being gay and simply led a gay life, he'd stay in the Senate. But it is precisely because he tried to hide it that he is in trouble.

That's why I absolutely *love* our let-it-all-hang-out, tell-all culture. The more outing that takes place, the more normal all that hidden behavior becomes, the less hung up and twisted we'll all be in so many ways, including being subject to shame and its destructiveness in so many forms (suicides; political leverage; etcetera).

Re:Levers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419329)

I'm open about all the suicides I've committed. Since I didn't try to hide it, no one cares.

Re:Levers (1)

keraneuology (760918) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419317)

Not to mention that if they know your secrets they can exert the leverage themselves.

Thanks for sharing. I own you now, weasel boy.

Re:Levers (2, Interesting)

Roger W Moore (538166) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419491)

It's not that they're morally judging you, its that they're making sure that you're not unduly susceptible to influence.

Why is it that politicians don't have to undergo the same background check before being eligible for office then? They have far more power in terms of changing laws, setting budgets etc. than the average NASA employee. Of course they also make the rules about who needs to have background checks...

Background checks make sense for people dealing with classified material but not for non-classified, scientific work which in most cases is published. You'd have to be a really stupid "intelligence" operation to try and pressure people to reveal information that you can get by subscribing to an academic journal!

Re:Levers (2, Funny)

pete-classic (75983) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419577)

Why is it that politicians don't have to undergo the same background check before being eligible for office then?


Put that on the ballot and I'll vote for it!

-Peter

Re:Levers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419629)

Today, getting a plain secret clearance involves nothing more than filling out a big online form & signing away your rights. (TS does still typically require the uncomfortable face-to-face interview of the subject and his friends/relatives.)

NASA wants people to sign scary NDAs that give government immense leverage not to protect us from the enemy but instead to protect the government from its employees. You can't blow the whistle when everything is classified.

Re:Levers (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419667)

I held a TS with SBI once upon a time. The main reason for background checks, as I understand it, is to ferret out any levers that could be used against you by hostile agent.
However, disclosing the information doesn't necessary help the candidate either. The typical case is of someone who says, yes I did do some illegal drugs 5 years ago. I've heard of plenty of people who honestly admitted to that sort of thing from their college days on their SF-86 or during their interview. I've never heard of anyone who did admit that sort of thing ever actually getting their clearance. Even though the "lever" ought to be useless at that point since their's no proof and the 'secret' has been admitted.

I have met people who claimed they lied about prior drug use and did get their clearances. Of course they could have been bullshitting me.

The issue of access (2, Insightful)

iamacat (583406) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418945)

If you work on the same floor as someone handling classified information, you obviously have more chance to steal it than an outsider. And if you have a large gambling debt or are having a clandestine gay (or straight) affair unknown to your spouse, you are more likely to be motivated to sell some of your knowledge or reveal it to avoid damaging exposure. Basically to work on - or around - government secrets you better not have too many secrets of your own.

Re:The issue of access (-1, Troll)

Jherek Carnelian (831679) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419031)

If you work on the same floor as someone handling classified information, you obviously have more chance to steal it than an outsider.
If you work for the same company as someone handling classified information you obviously have more chance to steal it than an outsider. So hand over all your personal information and get a new job if you don't pass muster.

If you work in the same neighborhood as someone at a classified facility you obviously have more chance to steal it than an outsider. So hand over all your personal information and get a new new employer if you don't pass muster.

If you live in the same city as someone working at a classified facility you obviously have more chance to steal it than an outsider. So hand over all your personal information and get a new home in a new city if you don't pass muster.

If you live in the same country as someone working at a classified facility you obviously have more chance to steal it than a foreigner. So hand over all your personal information, and get a new home in a new country if you don't pass muster.

The point of this reductio ad absurdum is to show that you don't understand a thing about the handling procedures involved. The level of risk at all the steps above, including your own, is roughly equal.

Re:The issue of access (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419669)

Uh, governments and contractors entrusted with classified material aren't THAT stupid. There are processes around the treatment of classified materials that people with access take VERY seriously.

Classified materials are never left in the open, unlocked or where someone else could accidentally see them. Where I worked they were only available in special rooms that required clearance to enter. Heck, any notes written while in that room also became classified and couldn't leave either. Only around Congress can someone place a classified document into a briefcase and take it home.

To some of the other posters that said these folks were simply robot drivers. It isn't like that robot could be bought from SONY for $2000. Those are $50M robots and I'm glad that the people controlling them are required to have a significant background check.

I have an FBI and NSA file from my background check. It took months and months to get cleared. They visited every non-dorm place that I lived and asked my neighbors about me. They researched my finances, and I'm certain that I was followed for a week or so. Ya know, sometimes you just "feel" it.

It has been years and years since my clearance expired, but I'll never discuss with anyone anything I worked on even if I see it on the front page of the New York Times or it is someone that I remember working with. Honestly, it wasn't that interesting, but taken with other information that I didn't/don't have, it may be very useful to someone. Heck, I doubt I could remember any details about it any how. Nope, can't.

Reciprocal rights (1)

Rhaposo (2572) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418957)

Just tell the snoops "You show me yours and I'll show you mine". Make it mandatory that everyone touching an individuals information has to disclose to that individual the same and just see how fast they'll back off.

Works for me when the stupids ask for a name and address (eg returning stuff).

Re:Reciprocal rights (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419157)

Just tell the snoops "You show me yours and I'll show you mine".

WARNING: Do not try that tactic with Larry Craig, Barney Frank, or Hillary Clinton!

Sexual Orientation Matters (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418963)

Would you want those guys trying to build a rover by trying to screw bolts together with bolts? Or nuts with nuts? It takes both folks... and our friends in Homeland Security know best.

Sexual Orientation (1)

s0abas (792033) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418965)

is a question asked on the Lifestyle polygraph test for a top secret clearance.

Re:Sexual Orientation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419309)

Except a top secret clearance does not require a polygraph test.

Re:Sexual Orientation (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419363)

That depends on the agency. The CIA and the military agencies all use polygraphs. The Department of State doesn't.

-jcr

I'm sick of it as well (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20418979)

It's a shame that eventually anyone who doesn't want to allow the FBI to open a dossier on them and start monitoring all their past and present communications will only be allowed to flip burgars or clean toilets for money to live in this society. This is exactly the kind of treatment by society that breeds radical islamists. If you treat someone like a radical islamist, then that's what they will become.

Re:I'm sick of it as well (1)

miskatonic alumnus (668722) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419043)

It's a shame that eventually anyone who doesn't want to allow the FBI to open a dossier on them and start monitoring all their past and present communications will only be allowed to flip burgars or clean toilets for money to live in this society.

TFA says that the janitors have to undergo the background check; i.e. you won't even be allowed to clean toilets.

Re:I'm sick of it as well (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419053)

"It's a shame that eventually anyone who doesn't want to allow the FBI to open a dossier on them and start monitoring all their past and present communications will only be allowed to flip burgars or clean toilets"

Guess you've never wondered what a "terr'rist" and a bottle of Crazy Glue can to to a toilet seat ... or what any burger-flipper can do to your meal if you piss them off. Hint - that green stuff wasn't relish.

Re:I'm sick of it as well (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419759)

For some reason, this post reminded me a lot of the movie Gattaca. Remember? Everyone was either a twelve-fingered pianist, an astronaut, or a migrant janitor. A few old cops were grandfathered into the system, but that's the exception, not the rule!

I always thought that was a little silly, myself.

it's a great idea! (2, Insightful)

phread (167197) | more than 6 years ago | (#20418993)

everyone who wants to be a government employee should have a background check done. but first every political figure, all their staff, families, pets(why not) go first. and all made public. a sound policy. i like it.

... and the voters too! (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419477)

We can't have lefties, commies, fags and druggies voting either can we? They can't vote straight.

Bottom line is that any prohibitive approach will fail.

IF you screen to exclude, say, gay employees because they are a security risk that will not stop many getting through the screen where they will be even more prone to being blackmailed.

It is far easier, and more effective, to be accepting of gay employees. That removes the blackmail pressure... and means that you don't exclude people that might be great for the job.

Re:... and the voters too! (1)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419703)

They don't care if you're gay. They care if you're gay and hiding it from your wife/family/whatever. The first situation doesn't matter as much, because as long as you're open about it it can't be used for blackmail. The second situation sets up something where you have something to lose if its discovered by a potential blackmailer.

As for druggies, I'd say that while I'd personally respect your right to alter your mind, its perfectly legitimate for an employer (like NASA) to want its employees to be in their right mind while performing sensitive or dangerous tasks.

As for Commies, I could see how if someone actually advocates and acts on an idealogy that includes overthrowing the government (I'm not sure if with the fall of the Soviet Union American Commies still do that nowadays, though), then that government might not want to hire them as an employee in a sensitive position.

As for lefties, that's not political screening. That's just a basic common sense intelligence and maturity test. (Ok, a little flamebait there for ya. :)

Is this really shocking? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419073)

The American government has gone full out crazy. They have no idea what they're even fighting for any more. Is it any surprise things will get worse?

What is truly sad is that America has brilliant and hard working people keeping the country afloat even while bearing the burden of collapsing oppression. This is what the Romans must have felt. And the French. And the Russians. And the Chinese.

Re:Is this really shocking? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419277)

The American government has gone full out crazy. They have no idea what they're even fighting for any more.

      They are fighting the American people, stupid. /sarcasm

The real issue (4, Insightful)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419169)

The biggest problem with our current administration is they have never been after the "terorists" as the call them their real agenda is findling the "enemy". For them the enemy is anyone who doesn't agree with them. That does include terrorists but it also includes many of their own people, Republicans that disagree on specific issues. NASA has been a thorn in their side lately because a few have complained about supressing facts and have spoken out in support of global warming. I think this is far more about towing the party line than about terrorists. They want dirt on everyone. There's an underlying paranoia in everything they do. Freedom isn't about free to think like they do but that's the interpretation. It's not whether potential terrorist can influence them but can the government yank their chain when they need to. We live in very scary times and it's not the country I grew up in. In some ways it was actually far more conservative but ironically there was far more freedom in the 60s. We're increasingly under a microscope and knowledge is power and it's always about power. The factions in Iraq claim it's about religion but even the factions are dividing into smallwer and smaller sub groups fighting among themselves but at it's heart it's about power and control.

Corporates do that too (4, Insightful)

2Bits (167227) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419225)

It's not just government agencies, and not after 9/11 either. This kind of practice happened even before 9/11 in corporate world.

In early 2001 (pre-9/11), the investors pulled out of our company and we went belly up. Two weeks later, I got an offer from a new startup, developing high-end IDS. I would be the second software engineer there. The offer was really good, with a good amount of stock options, and 3 weeks vacation. Except one thing: the background check.

The wording of that agreement was amazingly terrible. It is more than invasive. I kept that page until two years ago, finally threw it away with other junks. Basically, it stated that the company could do any background check, any time, on any thing, including but not just my previous and future phone logs (including personal phone), email log (including personal email), bank accounts, trading accounts, 401K, IRA, credit card expenses, credit check, newsgroup, web postings, .... yada yada. Whatever you can name it, it's on that piece of paper. The whole piece of paper is filled with these items. And the funny part was, for some checking, I had to foot up the expenses too, although it didn't say which ones.

I didn't sign, and went to the president, had a nice and polite discussion with him. I told him that I understood their concern about security, but this agreement obviously went overboard. I don't mind "normal" background check, but not those mentioned there. He also agreed that it went a little too far. So he asked me to re-word it so that I could accept. I rewrote the agreement, using standard background check format and wordings from other companies which I could accept. The president thought it was fine with him.

But the corporate attorney, with the support of the investors, didn't want to hear about it. He said that engineers and technical people had too easy an access to implement backdoors in the system. It is this way, or the highway.

I chose the highway. The company recruiter (external hired recruiter, actually) kept calling me for two months, but I already started working at other place for almost two months by then.

That is nothing (1)

TarPitt (217247) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419311)

For a Top Secret, you have to undergo a "lifestyle polygram". Nobody who has done this has told me exactly what the questions are, but they have suggested that they are extremely invasive.

Even for lesser clearances, they can (and will) interview neighbors, family and childhood friends.

This goes far beyond the public records and credit reports that private sector employers are demanding.

Re:That is nothing (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419429)

The main idea behind the "lifestyle polygram" is to make sure you are not hiding something that someone else can use to exploit you. I can honestly say, nobody really cares if you are gay, unless you are trying to hide it. If you are trying to hide this information from your parents, friends, spouse, etc., that becomes a big problem. It can become something someone can use as leverage over you. You can see where the government can be concerned about this. It's not just the people willing to take a bribe that you have to be worried about.

Re:That is nothing (1)

Firethorn (177587) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419597)

For a Top Secret, you have to undergo a "lifestyle polygram".

Not true. It remains an option though.

Re:Corporates do that too (1)

dblyth (896945) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419689)

I'm not a lawyer, so I'm wondering what kind of legal standing the employees have over what is presumably part of the terms of employment for a company, agency, etc. Couldn't the court just throw this out saying, "If you don't like it, then don't work there..."?

letter from NASA (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419233)

Dear Astronauts and all other staff,

The NASA administration and the department of Homeland Security is deeply committed to the security and well being of all NASA property. This includes our bases, buildings, general infrastructure and experimental vehicles, as well as the people necessary* to operate them. (we will address the term necessary* later)

Regarding the strict security measures put in place recently, we would like to make a strong statement regarding the discomfort that these measures may have created within some members of our community.

These measures have been enforced to address three things mainly:

-no more suicide rovers on mars
-no more (potentially deadly) love triangles
-and as an IQ test to see whether all NASA staff can properly id the location of uranus

These procedures are now a part of company policy...

"COMPRENDE?"

thank you for your understanding and cooperation,

(I agree)
sign here

NASA.

P.D. The "taking your pants off for rectal examination" is not an official NASA policy (anymore) so please report any incident or abuse of this kind to your immediate supervisor.

probably for profiling (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419251)

They want to make sure they know what kind of people, past and present, the space program attracts. If you get a big enough sample, you can profile wanted vs. unwanted by the numbers. Corner cases are risky, so you don't have to be exact. Profiling makes sure you get the type of population that you want.

First they came (2, Funny)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419279)

First they came for the security clearance jobholders.

Then they came for the government employees.

Then they came for employees of government contractors and vendors.

And now that the only jobs I can have or transactions I can conduct are with the 1% of the population and market that refuses business with the government, I'm too broke to pay my property tax on my supposedly private property. So now they're coming for me.

does anyone beside me remember (1)

Topherbyte (747078) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419353)

a certain intelligence report that came out a few years ago saying that the greatest threat to U.S. security is internal?

When you keep that little morsel in mind, it's quite easy to see why the government is so rabidly trying to compartmentalize everyone.

Ron Paul [ronpaul2008.com] is the cure.

Re-entry (0, Offtopic)

Alien Being (18488) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419375)

He licked my bag last night pre-flight
Queero hour for a trans
And I'm gonna be high as a kite by then
I urinate so much I'll need depends
My ass is dressed in lace
On such a shameless flight

And I think we're gonna screw for a long time
Till touch down brings me round again to find
I'm not the girl they think I am at home
Oh no no no I'm a rocket girl
Rocket girl burning out her fuse up here alone

Mars ain't the kind of place to fondle kids
My dick is cold as hell
And there's nothing like Uranus if you did
And all these morals I don't understand
Just a blow job for a freak
A rocket girl, a rocket girl

And I think we're gonna screw for a long time...

all this fear biting is leaving US pairannoyed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419389)

&, we have no secrets, we tell each other everything....

previously, we told each other:

mynuts won 'off t(r)opic'???
(Score:-1, Offtopic)
by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 30, @10:22AM (#20411119)
eye gas you could call this 'weather'?

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8004881114 [google.com] 646406827 [google.com]

be careful, the whack(off)job in the next compartment may be a high RANKing corepirate nazi official.

previous post:
whoreabull corepirate nazi felons planning trips
(Score: mynuts won, robbIE's 'secret' censorship score)
by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 01, @12:13PM (#20072457)
in orbit perhaps? we wouldn't want to be within 500 miles of the naykid furor at this power point.

better days ahead?

as in payper liesense hypenosys stock markup FraUD felons are on their way out? what a revolutionary concept.

from previous post: many demand corepirate nazi execrable stop abusing US

we the peepoles?

how is it allowed? just like corn passing through a bird's butt eye gas.

all they (the felonious nazi execrable) want is... everything. at what cost to US?

for many of US, the only way out is up.

don't forget, for each of the creators' innocents harmed (in any way) there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/US as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile will not be available after the big flash occurs.

'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi life0cidal glowbull warmongering execrable.

some of US should consider ourselves very fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate.

it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc....

as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis.

concern about the course of events that will occur should the corepirate nazi life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order.

'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

Enough with the FUD (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419493)

I have a masters in public administration, so I'd say I have some insight into these checks. The main problem with them is that both the Government Accountability Office and the Office of Management and Budget have failed to define clear standards and/or monitor these programs.

Below is my analysis of the issue, but my recommendations are simple:
1) A list of excluding conditions should be posted/linked in any and all federal hiring postings in the same section they state full mental/health record release is required. A link to an exceptions and appeals process should also be included. There is no security risk in posting this information since if you're requiring the records be disclosed, then you're probably doing a full background check and maybe even a lie detector -- "but i dont have any records" isn't going to work.

2) Credit check usage should be linked and explained with CLEAR EXEMPTIONS for disabilities, workforce transition, college students...wait...this list goes on and on. How about they just state what the fuck disqualifies someone and provide an appeals process? After all, if you have poor credit due to external circumstance and a perfect criminal record, doesn't that make you less of a risk?

3) Lie detector requirement should be stated (they usually aren't) and general areas of inquiry should be explained up front. Currently they provide you no information...so you could get hired and could be fired 6 months later for doing pot 4 years ago. Making the general questions public is important to guarantee oversite and avoid racial/class bias in questioning. I would LOVE to see how quick the process changed if someone changed the questioning on theft to include "digital property or works."

-----------
Security check effectiveness is difficult to measure, but that does not excuse the lack of clear guidelines and the near universal requirement for investigations. As a result of the lack of guidance, many of these "security" checks may, amusingly, provide cover for discrimination against the disabled and racial minorities. There is a reason why people are advised against doing credit checks on non-financial positions -- they may lead to a pattern of discrimination that is in violation of federal law. For the uninformed, federal law prohibits any system that _tends_ to discriminate against people based on race.

The problem with these checks is thus that they discourage qualified people from applying and also allow hiring managers significant wiggle room on who to hire/fire. They provide three areas of problems--credit checks, lie detectors, and mental health disclosures.

1) In terms of hiring, most agencies state that they require a credit check--even those that don't do an FBI background. And amusingly, it's usually placed right under the non-discrimination clause. I have never seen any information on how the credit information is used -- How do you deal with persons with disabilities? Persons with no insurance? Poor people that were victims of predatory lending? Anyone with a sudden family calamity? Most importantly, is a credit check relevant at all for someone that has been under or unemployed and is trying to get a job??!

Simply put, the agency provides no information on why the check is necessary, what the appeals process is, or how it will be used. In addition, the agency puts the rating decision in the hands of private companies that have a history of discriminating based on location (redlining, oooo check cashing stores, predatory credit "deals" targeted at the lower class). In addition, a credit check is problematic because lower income people are less likely to watch or contest incorrect information.

2) Lie detector tests. NOTHING is disclosed about what these cover, how far they go back, or what the appeals process is. Grow up in the ghetto? Try crack when you were 15? Are you really going to apply that secret clearance job at 26? Guidelines should be clearly stated to make certain that everyone is on the same level and not just the folks that are the same race/class/sexuality at the person doing the screening or the hiring manager. For example, I know a white guy that smoked a lot of pot in college that failed a portion of his lie detector test, he lied and he was caught...however, the interviewer (also white) took the time to go back over the issue and ask him to clarify "what he really meant to say." This was for a police dispatcher position, fyi.

For security AND for equity reasons, general drug use questions/guidelines and crime question/guidelines should clearly be stated. There is no danger in making the areas of inquiry public, because if a terrorist/fraudster wants to infiltrate he's either going to a) plan years in advance or b) learn to fake the lie detector test. You're not gonna check federal hiring procedures when you're 18 before you light your first joint.

3) Full release of medical information. This one is less frequent, but it's out there and not always for secret positions--in fact many hiring positions and agreements are ambiguous enough that when you authorize them to investigate you you may also give them full access to your medical records. The problem with it is that it is never disclosed as to what is mentally disqualifying. Did you have anger/personal issues because you grew up as a racial or sexual minority and seek counseling? Were you diagnosed with depression as a result? Would this exclude you from hiring? And how does this correlate with the over-prescribing of medications to poor people (this happens due to the lack of time to deal with patients, and tax-write offs at full price for medication)? A simple LIST OF EXCLUDING CONDITIONS would resolve this.

There will always be an excuse for an administrative action to help protect security, the key is to balance that system with feedback. The key to feedback is visibility and oversight -- and since the GAO and OMB arent doing their damn jobs, agencies need to make the investigation process much more transparent.

addendum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#20419701)

Anyone need a Jr. Business Analyst in the SF area?

I so have no interest in working for lazy bureaucrats. Just point me toward a hard-working team that is honest (i.e. out for the money). And yeah, I know I should have gotten an MBA.

Open Employment Offer for JPL employees (2, Funny)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419511)

Dear NASA Scientists,

I know you like the collegial atmosphere out at JPL. I know you like being able to have your work peer-reviewed. In short, I know that you like the lives that some of you have lead for the last several decades. Unfortunately, you and I both know that things are changing, largely at the request of your own government.

I know you don't like the new security checks. No matter how squeaky-clean your lives are, or how much you love your country, there are always some skeletons in the closet that can come back to haunt you. Also, the rules are always changing - what was unacceptable twenty years ago but acceptable ten years ago is now unacceptable again. Nobody should have to live like that.

My organisation already knows all your secrets. They weren't that hard to find - as you've probably already realised, money talks. And you know what? We don't care. That's right, we don't give a shit that you cross-dress, have sex with livestock, eat your own boogers or have a gambling problem. (Actually, on that last point, we do - and treat it as a medical problem with treatment covered entirely under our health plan, and our financial planners can help you get your life back together too. Same deal with drugs.)

From our secret base of operations somewhere south-east of Florida we plan World Domination. Our Weather Machine and Death Ray divisions are approaching the deployment phase, but there's still a pressing need for talent in the Heavy Launch, Orbital Habitat and Orbital Weapons Platform divisions.

Our employees receive world-class free health care, six weeks paid vacation each year and a pension plan that makes the GDP of many small countries look pitiful - and there's lots of room for advancement, so your pension payout could actually *be* Lichtenstein or Peru. We also pay all re-location expenses, and have great schools a short submarine ride away. We have a wide range of recreational and sporting facilities. We are family-friendly, with common-sense and generous carers leave provisions. On the subject of family-friendly, we have a petting zoo. We also have a less family-oriented heavy-petting zoo, but we don't usually like to talk about it.

If you think it's time for a change and that you can make a difference, reply here - don't worry, although your government will find you we've paid their operatives enough to make sure we get to you first. No pressure - we won't tell your dirty little secrets, but then, we don't have to. The choice is entirely yours.

Sincerely,

Xavier F. Megalomaniac
Supervillain

P.S.
We have administrative, support and security
roles available too - and leather and spandex
are only required on formal occasions.

time to close NASA (1)

dltaylor (7510) | more than 6 years ago | (#20419765)

Once the good sheeple are the only ones left, there won't be anything intelligent coming out of the organization anyway. Learning new things often involves thinking outside the current bounds, and people that can do that don't always restrict it their professional lives. Think about how few of the team at Los Alamos would have qualified to work for the new regime (for example, Dr. Feynman's admitted reaching beyond his "compartment" for information).

On top of which, many of the "pressure points" only exist because the thugs in the security services are perturbed about them. Homosexuality is one of the prime examples. It is only a "problem" because the asshats who invent the rules have made it one. If you weren't in danger of losing your job because you've "been there, done that", then it wouldn't be something that the "other guys" could threaten to expose.
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