[ExI] Security clearances

Giulio Prisco giulio at gmail.com
Thu May 12 06:20:46 UTC 2016

I used to have a high level security clearance in a previous life
chapter. The authorities are supposed to do a very thorough background
check before giving you a security clearance (point 4) and exclude,
for example, people that are vulnerable to blackmail or just likely to
drink too much and talk. Of course, at times background checks are not
as thorough as expected. All your points apply, especially 2.


On Thu, May 12, 2016 at 8:05 AM, Anders Sandberg <anders at aleph.se> wrote:
> 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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