Thu 15

My Friend’s Security Clearance


Aussies in Sydney: I’m doing my first ever Sydney bookstore event tonight (Friday)! Details here.

Yesterday I received a letter from the Australian Department of Defence. It is in fact from the Defence Security Authority section of the Department of Defence. I bet they have slogans like “Defending the Defenders,” or “Watching Your Back While You’re At The Front.” Or at least they should.

Anyway, they wrote to me because I have a friend who works there, and apparently he:

… is currently undergoing a security clearance process for access to extremely sensitive information. As part of the security clearance process, it is required that we contact nominated referees to ascertain the subject’s suitability to have access to this type of information.

Then there are a bunch of questions like this:

Are you aware of any matters of potential security concern with regards to the subject? (Unexplained changes in work patterns or performance; changes in personality; changes in their personal life)

Those are some pretty suggestive examples. So naturally I’m thinking of writing something like this:

Not at all! In fact, just the other day he said he’d never been happier, not since he met “the true believers.” I think that must be a club you have there at Defence. Anyway, he’s really been broadening his horizons—learning to speak Mandarin, for example, and always dropping into the Chinese Embassy, just to soak up some foreign culture! And I know he’s really looking forward to his next vacation; he said he really deserves it. Actually, what he said was, “Then everyone will get what they deserve.” Then he rubbed his hands together and cackled. I think he must be planning to get YOU guys presents, even though he’s going away! Hope I haven’t spoiled the surprise! Ha ha!

It’s a nice feeling, knowing that I can destroy a friend’s career with a few lines. I think it brings us closer together. I might ring him up and tell him that, and suggest that this would be an appropriate time to have me over for dinner, and spare no expense on the wine.

But I do wonder about this system. If I take this form at face value, the method the Department of Defence uses to identify potential spies is to get them to name a few friends who are willing to say they’re on the level. It seems to me that if you’re going to all the trouble of infiltrating a hostile government and working your way into a position of significance over a period of several years, you can probably arrange that. I mean, I’m no expert on international espionage. But that would seem like one of the basics to me.

Maybe Defence is right, though. It would be pretty stressful, maintaining an ice-cool facade at work all day. Maybe after a a hard day’s pretending to not revile capitalism, you might want to hit a few bars with friends in your “THE REVOLUTION IS COMING” T-shirt. Everyone needs to blow off steam sometime. If it were me, I’d always be having conversations like this:

Them: “… which is why our country’s economy is so strong.”
Me: “Yes, exactly.” (mutters) “For now.”
Them: “What?”
Me: “Nothing.”
Them: “It sounded like you muttered “for now” under your breath.”
Me: “That was gas.”
Them: “Oh. Okay.”
Me: (mutters) “Fool.”
Them: “What?”