[ExI] Security clearances

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Thu May 12 06:05:00 UTC 2016

Since I will be working on information hazards this summer, I am curious 
about the world of security clearances. How do they *actually* work?

Practically, it seems to be a combination of (1) getting people to 
acknowledge that they will deal with Important Stuff and are responsible 
(a psychological effect), (2) creating a cultural environment where 
information flow is shaped (a social effect), (3) creating penalties for 
doing things wrong (an incentive effect). I assume there is also an 
assumed (4): that cleared people are less likely to leak or mishandle 
information (a selection effect). Does anybody know if there have been 
any proper studies of how well 1-4 actually work?

Bringing this into the transhuman world, we may consider what happens if 
we get really good at these things.

On 2016-05-10 22:49, spike wrote:
> Ja. When the security people hear a credible rumor, they can call the 
> clearance holder in for an interview, without even telling why.  If 
> the holder refuses, clearance is suspended.  If the holder accepts and 
> confesses everything, then the holder is in trouble for not coming 
> forth earlier before he was caught, but might hold on to the clearance 
> if the investigation decides national security was not compromised.  
> If they find the holder intentionally tried to cover his tracks, or if 
> the other participant wasn’t cleared at the same level, or they want 
> to make an example of the guy, or if the ranking official is in a bad 
> mood that day, or any number of other factors, the holder gets his 
> clearance suspended or revoked.
> Any big aerospace company is populated with straight-arrow law-abiding 
> types, which is how they qualified for those clearances to start 
> with.  If any high-up leader has a clearance suspended, word quickly 
> gets around why it happened, and that guy can no longer effectively 
> lead that crowd: they have no respect for him.  This is what happened 
> to the LM second in command a few years ago.
> Funny aside: a long time ago, I was in a proposal group where we were 
> trying to find civilian uses for a whole bunch of surplus military 
> stuff we could buy for about a nickel on the dollar, stuff that was 
> idled by a treaty that took effect right at the tail end of Bush41’s 
> term.  It included rocket motors, guidance systems, not the nukes of 
> course but all kinds of cool rocket stuff, originally designed to 
> carry nukes but now all of it surplus and ready to haul rich people to 
> space, that kinda thing.
> In that building where we were generating proposals, we had a 
> soundproof meeting room.  It was seldom used for anything: it was a 
> pain in the ass to even get there, since it was a structure within a 
> structure, kinda like a massive refrigerator inside a building, and 
> you had to code in, etc, so they could archive who went in and when.  
> We decided to find out if it really was sound proof.  We had exactly 
> one woman in that group, mid thirties, fun sense of humor type. We 
> said “Hey Lurleen, go in there and close up, then scream like you are 
> being murdered or something.”
> Leave it to her to respond, “Or something, OK.”
> {8^D
> Took us several minutes to stop laughing.  Then, she went in there, 
> closed up, screamed.  We couldn’t hear it.  The structure worked as 
> advertised.
> We didn’t need Lurleen to point out to us what that facility enabled.  
> I don’t know if anyone ever used it for that purpose, but I wouldn’t 
> be a bit surprised.  If they did that and self-reported, the security 
> people probably wouldn’t tell the company (I wouldn’t think (they 
> would have nothing to gain by telling.))
> In any case, the security people make it clear during initial training 
> and all subsequent periodic updates: they get it that people are not 
> saints.  They understand.  They are not your priest.  But they do need 
> to know what you did, so they can watch out for negative 
> consequences.  If you cross them, they can hurt you.  If you lie to 
> them, this is a bad thing.
> spike

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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