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Security Clearances: Why do we need them?

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When I was 11 years old, I won a computer – an Atari 600XL through an “Atari Age” magazine contest. That summer, I entered 101 programs from a book of programs.

I was copying source material. That’s all. A human Xerox machine, simply entering unknown words and symbols into a machine and awaiting like a happy monkey for the results.

But then something magical happen.

When I did something wrong, the whole system crashed.

This taught me a valuable lesson.

So I started changing things, asking ‘what happens if I do this?”.

Frequently it would end in system crashes.

But soon. I started learning things. No longer was I limited to 15 enemies in Star Trek To fight, I now had 100 making my game last much longer. No longer was I limited to 10 sectors of space, I now had 1000. No longer was I limited to Klingons and Vulcans as alien species. I now had species I made up and pulled out of my ass.

And when things got frustrating, no longer was I limited to 1, 000 rupees in Hammurabi, I now had 1,000,000 to make any modifications I wanted to in the game without real artificially imposed constraints.

Shortly after turning 18 years old, I had just purchased my first 8088 computer and found the video game “Leisure Suit Larry” on a Bulletin Board System. The only problem was, the game was copy protected and required the original disks to play, which prevented me from playing the game. Whoever had posted it on the board had done so knowingly, for who knows what reason. Clearly it was to share with the community. What compelled them to, who knows?

In any case. Leisure Suit Larry was an adult oriented game about a happy go lucky guy in a leisure suit who was a bit behind the times who just enjoyed getting laid, and as such, none of the games stores were selling it.

To me – the premise was fantastic and fun. No longer was I shooting shit down in alien invasions. I could interact with the enigmatic programmed species otherwise known as ‘females’.

I found a hexadecimal editor, and found a book on assembly language for the 8088, and reverted back to my ‘what does this do’ method of testing Leisure Suit Larry to run.

After about 2 weeks, I found the correct command ‘a JSR’ – which is a Jump to Sub Routine, and I used that to ‘jump over’ the section of code which checks for the key disk and exits in case of failure, and that night, I was playing Leisure Suit Larry.

Much to my wife, Donna’s chagrin.

This gave me an idea.

The computers at work were using VAX/VMS systems for the internal corporate network, and I knew that the company kept pretty much all the information on it based on the Department of Defense’s requirements for vendors doing Top Secret/CLI (Compartmental Localized Information) work. But I had noticed the software had a ‘loader’ just like Leisure Suit Larry did as it booted, and then logged in.

My thoughts were simple: I knew VAX/VMS systems were batch driven which meant when one program ends another is loaded up in order. I also knew that all VAX/VMS systems loaded with an admin root logon to load drivers before you as a user typed in your information. So I theorized that if I could ‘break’ out of the loading process at just the right time, I could actually avoid the user logon and have full admin access to the entire network.

Incidentally, Windows computers have the same basic security flaw with the device model.

So for several days during lunch, my ex wife and I would sit together and I would ‘Play games’ on the system while she read her book, we just enjoyed being around eachother, and that was one nice thing about our relationship, we didn’t have to talk all the time, which just enjoyed eachother’s presence.

I spent the hour I had for lunch rebooting the system, and right as it booted up, I would hit key combinations trying to ‘break’ the batch process after it had finished loading the drivers but right before the user logon process loaded up.

After three days. I got it to happen. And boom. I had complete and total access to the entire network. It was effectively a back door to the entire system.

Over the next several months, I learned about all the Secret and Top Secret programs Orbital had currently on their plate – quite literally they had almost a trillion dollars in projects – and for a privately held company at the time – despite publicly reporting their worth in the neighborhood of a hundred million – they were doing extremely well for themselves. From there – I also leveraged the network to see anything that the government was asking for bids on in their network that was Secret and Top Secret, which was a proverbial smorgasbord of ‘holy shit they think this is possible?’. I was amazed.

Then. I started diving into payroll information. I was only getting paid about $12 an hour at the time as an Electrical Quality Assurance Inspector, and wasn’t even in software at the time, but I wanted to know ‘my worth’ and wiggle room I had for negotiations before my next review – to give me ammunition for asking for a raise. That’s when I learned how much the CEO and all the Vice Presidents were making, along with my management and everyone around me. It was powerful information to have for negotiations, but if I disclosed my knowledge of it, I would lose my power.

I told my wife from the onset, and she was it, and this was about the time I found out about her having an affair. I have no doubt the two events are linked.

But about three months later, a black man by the name of Mike – a co-worker and peer working with me in inspection – took pride in being as absolutely tormenting and demeaning as he could to people who were ‘less in perceived status to him’ – including many of the inventory people who I came to get to know some of them as friends. One day, he went on insulting an inventory clerk for an error he had made, saying “I get paid more than you, you don’t mean shit to the management and they will fire you LONG before they would fire someone like me”

It pissed me off. So I said “Mike. You’re a dick and you and Ty (the guy he was belittling) only makes $1 an hour less than you. Even then. He’s still a great guy, so what the hell gives you the right to be such a jerk? He made a mistake. Get over it.”

I’d made one mistake that he attacked like a bulldog. I had tipped my hand.

“What do you make?” Mike demanded to know from Ty.

Orbital had a expectation and written policy of not disclosing your wages to your peers.

But Ty Boothby spent most of his time playing in a local band as a lead guitarist and background vocalist, and was quite good at what he did, and this ‘day job’ merely paid the bills for him to pay for his true passion: making music.

He wasn’t in it for the money.

“$14 an hour,” he said.

Mike looked at me incredulously. “How in the f*** did you know that he only made a dollar less than me?”

I smiled. “Lucky Guess”.

Ty walked off.

For the next week, Mike pressured me, but being completely honest, I was hankering to tell someone besides my wife who mildly understood computers what I had done. So finally, I took Mike to a backroom, and told him how I knew it.

But I refused to show him how.

Mike kept up his beratement. Now he had proof he was worth more. So it only made the situation worse him knowing this with the inventory people.

In fact, he became so unbearable, he was fired.

About a month goes by, and Matt Colton, my direct Supervisor comes to me with his face red. He wore his emotions on his face, so when something made him intensely nervous or angry – his face would get beet red. I prayed this was nervousness, because I hated making this mild mannered man angry.

“Brian,” he said, nervously, “David Brackney’s admin just called. He wants to see you in his office immediately.”

David Brackney was known throughout the company as “The Hatchet Man”.

Only weeks before his admin had called for Mike prior to his dismissal.

The ONLY time you heard from David was when someone was getting fired.

As Vice President, I to this day don’t know what his other duties were.

“What did you do?,” Matt asked.

“I’ll tell you later,” I said to Matt.

AS I walked in to ‘Mahogany row’, the area of the company where all the leaders had their offices, as everything in these offices had been decorated with expensive leather and mahogany furniture. When you were here, the feeling was regal, and you absolutely knew you were no longer in the comforts of your assembly areas. David’s office door was open and his administrative assistant, said “Go on in…”.

She was a personal friend I’d had a history with, and she whispered “What did you do?” as I walked by.

“Later… ” I whispered back at her.

David had heard me walk up and was standing.

“Mr Gregory. I am glad you could join us,” he said, as the door was closed by a man in a grey suit behind me. “I would like you to meet Agent Kowalski and Agent Bates,”

“What can I do you for?,” I nervously said, not realizing the slip, something I remember saying like it was yesterday.

Have you ever had a moment in time which feels like it all happened in slow motion? Like your mind played and replayed it so many times you can remember absolutely everything about it including the tiniest of details?

This was one of those moments.

“Mr Gregory, have a seat,” Mr Brackney said waving his hand towards the large maroon leather chair with hand carved decorated mahogany.

I sat down, uncomfortably, my palms sweating.

“These gentlemen are with the FBI and are here investigating Mr. Robert’s dismissal,” he said.

“Oh you mean Mike?

Mr Brackney nodded affirmatively before continuing. “It seems he’s filed a lawsuit for racial discrimination, claiming wrongful termination. As everyone should be aware of, …Mike… was terminated for violating the company’s written policy to not openly discuss wages. He’s claiming wages are openly discussed in his discrimination law suit, and cites you as someone who has full awareness of what people make.”

My nervousness shifted to anger. ‘why that little bastard!’, I thought, ‘I told him what I knew to shut him up, now he’s standing to get me in trouble to make a quick buck off a frivolous lawsuit?’

I was livid. And lied through my teeth. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

Mr Bates, he was the tall FBI agent, spoke for the first time “Are we to understand you knew absolutely nothing about his or anyone else’s income?”

“Do I need to get a lawyer?,” I responded, I felt my face turning red this time.

Agent Kowalski, he was the fatter FBI agent and didn’t fit his suit too well, “No, no we’re not accusing you of anything. The Federal government makes it a fact to follow up on accusations of discrimination when they involve a defense contractor. As you’re well aware of, Orbital is a defense contractor, so we’re simply doing our job before the case hits the courts, that’s all.”

Mr Brackney leaned in, “Mr Gregory, … Mike… claims in his law suit you have complete access to the computer systems and know everyone’s wages. Is this true?”

I was now angry at Mike for manipulating the trust I had in confiding, and no matter the case, Mike’s accusations of discrimination were completely baseless. The fact of the matter was, he was simply a dick to people, and it didn’t matter the color of his skin, invariably he was just too difficult a person to want to work with, even for his coworkers, so management found an excuse to let him go. I actually supported their decision.

“Mr Gregory?,” Mr Brackney said, as I was spacing out a little bit as I seethed.

“Oh Sorry,” I said. “I was trying to think of why he might have claimed what he did. I don’t want to call him a liar. So maybe I alluded to being better at computers than I really am. It’s quite possible he assumed I knew about wages when he and Ty were having an argument, one day, but I knew what I knew because I was trying to get my friend a job in Ty’s department and knew about what they paid based on the ads in the paper for similar roles. So no, I don’t know why he would claim that.”

Mr Bates walked over besides Mr Brackney. I remember thinking how weird it was to have him stand there, so close to Mr Brackney.

“So you’re saying you do not have any access to payroll or any other unauthorized information in the company’s systems?”

“That’s exactly what I am saying,” I said, looking him directly in the eye. It was something I was unaccustomed to, but something told me I needed to be convincing.

Mr Brackney smiled, and said “Thank you, Mr Gregory, you can go back to work now.”

I got up, confused, and started to walk out the door.

“Oh and Brian,” Mr Brackney said, losing his formalities, “we would appreciate it if you didn’t repeat anything that was discussed in this room today to anyone.”

When I made it to my work area about ten minutes later, the Orbital building was pretty large, so it took that long to walk there, Matt Colton summoned me outside, to the smoking area – the break area for the smokers outside of one of the doors.

“What the hell was that all about?,” he said, between puffs of his cigarette.

I thought briefly about David’s warning. Only briefly.

“Mike’s claiming discrimination in his termination. David’s doing the interviews with the feds,” I said, without blinking.

“Why that little prick,” Matt said.

Matt and Mike had gone at it on more than one occasion, as Mike had with everyone. So Matt is most certainly among the reasons Mike was fired, and it had absolutely nothing to do with discrimination. It was just miserable working around the guy.

Matt smoked his cigarette, and didn’t say much after that.

Two days later, the phone rings. Matt hangs up, and looks at me. His face red again. But not as red as last time.

“David would like to see you again.”

Everyone looked at me. The QA room held about 8 of us in total, and what we did was not exactly private.

I got up and walked to Mahogany row again. Did they learn the truth? While I was nervous this time, I wasn’t nearly as nervous as last time.

David’s admin assistant looked at me as I walked up. “Again,” she whispered, “What did you do, you bad boy you?,” she said as she winked at me.

If I hadn’t been married, I would have jumped at the opportunity to be with her, she was funny, extremely attractive – and always flirting with me.

But I was.

This time, Mr Brackney was at the door.

“Mr Gregory, come on in and have a seat.”

I saw two men – one I immediately recognized, the other one I didn’t.

“Mr Gregory, You’ve met our CIO – Gary Sprute, as I am sure you know, he’s the Director of Information Technology.”

Gary smiled morosely at me and nodded.

“And this is Tod… Tod Bjerke – he’s a manager of a project called LEAP. Tod, do you mind reminding me of what LEAP means?”

Tod held his hand out, and said “Glad to have you aboard,” I shook hands with him, “LEAP stands for Lightweight Exo-Atmospheric Projectile, and is an ICBM interceptor vehicle.”

I’d read all about the project in my illicit perusings. LEAP was a Secret Level DOD project which re-tasked decommissioned Minuteman missile systems with new guidance and navigation units, a new paint job and new flight and control systems, with the goal of targeting incoming nuclear missiles from countries like Russia mid-flight, or at the point of launch if launch sequences had been detected. It wasn’t a bomb, but it was a missile which was extraordinarily precise and intercepted a missile or bomb – mid-flight – in the opposite direction of travel – and imploded it with its own momentum.

It was pretty freaking cool.

But I was confused.

“Have me aboard?,” I asked.

“Tod, do you mind if Mr Brackney and I have a moment alone with Mr Gregory?,” Gary said.

In yet another moment of time standing still, I think it was just David’s office where time seemed to slow down and I remembered everything.

With how many people David had fired in his office, I do not doubt there was a rip in space and time with the emotional tension caused in there.

As Tod left, Mr Brackney said “Tod, can you close the door behind you?”

The door closed.

“Mr Gregory. First, I would like to personally thank you for your support the other day with the FBI,” Mr Brackney said.

Without so much a pause, Gary cut in “Why did you lie?”

“What?” I stammered.

Mr Brackney was more of a politician than I previously imagined he was given his nickname.

“We know you’ve been in every system, we have logs and installed the cameras in your bay showing you were accessing every system, and have been watching you access everything,” Mr Sprute said.

I’d dismissed the installation of the cameras as paranoia about what I was doing, but didn’t let it stop me, it just didn’t make sense to me they wouldn’t just stop me if they knew so why go through the trouble of changing my habits if they already knew?

I was caught, red handed though, and knew it.

I was speechless.

Mr Sprute smiled. “Look, you’re not in trouble, otherwise you simply wouldn’t be here. We need your help in patching the hole you found, We’ve also opened up a position in the software department as a junior programmer.”

I felt a grin building inside and about pissed my pants in excitement. An un-degreed programmer working with degreed engineers? I was beside myself.

For some reason, I said “What if I didn’t take the job?”

Their smiles turned sour fast. I don’t know what made me say that, the offer was more than I could have hoped and asked for.

But I did.

Mr Sprute said – with a straight face “Then we’ll turn you into the FBI for obstruction of a federal investigation, and when they catch on to the fact that you’ve had your hands in things that require a Top Secret clearance, there’s a chance you may not see that lovely wife of yours, Donna’s her name, right?”

It wasn’t a pleasant formal introduction to Gary Sprute.

He’s actually a much kinder man than this, I just caught him and he replied harshly to my comment.

Mr Brackney played the diplomat “Brian, you’ve put us in a difficult position. We’re currently getting cleared for some NASA projects as you are well aware of, and with that – we’re also being audited for risk. That’s the second anti-discrimination lawsuit that’s been thrown at us this year, so as the government does its evaluation to determine risk, they are scrutinizing the reasons for every new hire and termination.”

I leaned back. “So you can’t fire me because of Mike. And if you turn me in that threatens the audit.”

As if by magic, I had managed to put myself in the perfect position to reinforce getting the job I wanted.

David and Gary both looked at me blankly.

“You have 90 days to convert the LEAP code base from Motorola 68000 assembler to Microtec C. If after 90 days, you cannot achieve this, then you will be laid off in accordance with this intern contract,” Gary said as he slid a piece of paper across David’s desk in front of me and pulled a red pen from his pocket protector, clicking it and setting it on top of the paperwork.

Yep. He was a real nerd, pocket protector and all.

“I can’t go back to inspection if I can’t do it?,” I asked.

“Matt will have hired your replacement by then, there will be no job to return to,” Mr Brackney said matter-of-factly.

It was an all or nothing deal. Jail or a job.

Unfortunately, I made the wrong decision.

I picked up the contract, looked at it

The contract stated that I was getting a $6 an hour raise for the promotion, bringing my pay rate to $20 an hour.

I was hourly. And could work as many hours as I needed to achieve the desired results.

And while we all knew I was making less than the degreed engineers, I was still making far more than I was only an hour before.

I looked at Gary, and then said “Sure, I’ll do it. But Gary, just so you know, Donna and I are getting a divorce, so I’ll be able to pull a lot of overtime to get this done.”

I then signed the contract.

89 days later. I had learned Assembler for the Motorola 68000 processor, a smattering of Intel assembler, and the Microtec C embedded programming language – working an average of 100 hours per week,

I made $36,000 USD in those 12 weeks, with overtime pay policies paying me 2x my pay for every hour worked over 60 hours, and 1.5x my pay for every hour between 40 to 60 hours worked.

Gary And David both later admitted they thought there was no way a novice programmer let alone a mere hacker – could accomplish what I did – let alone in such short time.

After that, Orbital sponsored something called an accelerated TS/CLI clearance for me to let me officially have access to the systems I already had access to in an effort to help clean them up.

A clearance that once you’re granted, you’re legally not supposed to tell anyone about.

And Tod my manager – became a lifelong friend and mentor who’s still working with Orbital to this day.

Luckily, overtime checks came separate from standard payroll checks, so I waited to deposit that check until after my divorce had finalized.

And that’s among the reasons I developed a lifelong love of strippers, escorts topless dancers and nude dancers to this day.

They helped me feel like a man again after my emasculating divorce.

I became friends with both David and Gary later, they – along with Tod – to their misfortune – became the recipient of many of my often hacking based practical jokes.

One night I hacked into David’s Mac and placed the sound clip “I am sorry Dave I am afraid I can’t do that” onto random things Dave would attempt to click on. I never disguised the fact that it was me who did it, but this one I got an ass chewing on.

On another occasion, I created a program which made it look like a hard drive reformat was occurring, but all you had to do was press a key and it would return from it making it clear it was a joke. On another occasion I would have contagious laughter leaping from machine to machine on the VAX/VMS system which could only stopped by me remotely. I’d never play the jokes directly on Gary out of fear of getting fired, but I found myself in his office on more than one occasion being yelled at and told not to do ‘that’ again.

To me this was an invitation to do something different, since he never explicitly told me to quit playing jokes.

Months after leaving Orbital. Mr Brackney called me up.

As a primary owner of Orbital having sold his shares in Orbital, he – along with the CFO, CEO, and Chief Marketing Officer – asked me to come head up the IT department of a new company they had formed.

The money would have been awesome.

And clearly, despite my antics, the man respected me and had made it clear on more than one occasion afterwards.

But I said no.

Why?

I lied again. This time, because over the years after our first run in, I had developed a great deal of respect for this man who others referred to as “The Hatchet Man”. I had left Orbital when the time was right for me, not because of what they did was disinteresting, quite the contrary, I loved what they did, but there was only so much they were willing to help me with personal development once I had achieved that last promotion. I didn’t want Gary’s job.

So as I told him: “David, I have nothing but respect for you and Stephen and the rest of the gang. But I’m done with embedded systems”.

I’d learned his politics.

He protested, claiming it was application development, definitely more up my alley, trying to sell me something I just wasn’t interested in buying.

But the simple truth was , I just didn’t want to be involved with a high quality machine shop making piece parts for someone else’s rockets, which was what his business was built around. It just wasn’t for me. Even if I was heading up the IT division. Even if the money was great. Even if they found great success with this and this management team which I knew they would. I was simply more interested in personal development – something which would take me years to figure out.

So I declined his offer.

After leaving Orbital, I maintained that Top Secret clearance with my own money – to the tune of $10k every 2 years – up until 2003, when a new security classification system was put in place and when I finally accepted the position at the NSA as a private contractor. By then I had gotten pretty good with investing (and hiding) my money, and had a little over a million USD in the bank. But I had only been successful because I was always choosing roles and positions based on both circumstance and personal interest.

From 1993, when I left Orbital – to about 1999, before I opened my own company – I would target a company I wanted to work for when I became bored at the company I was at.
Like a woman, I would always get what I wanted for a job through simple patience and diligence.

So In 2003, shortly after starting with the NSA, I was selected to be on a team in the joint “Central Security Services” which was redeveloping the security clearances and levels.

As it turned out, what happened to me at Orbital had been known by the FBI the whole time, who’d sent investigators out to ascertain whether or not I was a threat to national security. I was not the first person who’d hacked a secure system, but I represented a unique opportunity to observe rather than incarcerate because of the lawsuit filed by Mike.

They’d long been considering “How do we restructure” our clearances when someone is like me – gains access to a system by chance or system flaw?

The movie “Wargames”, released in 1983, was based on the real life story of a man who had penetrated NORAD through a backdoor and prompted a national alert fearing a full nuclear strike was occurring – and was later recruited to help secure the same systems he had accidentally broken into. This event had occurred in 1981, and the FBI had for years been harsh with its punishment of offenders whether they obtained access to the systems they did on accident or on purpose.

In 1989, shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, the FBI was required by then President Reagan to revise its clearance levels and tactics for mitigating risk and threats to clearance breaches as the simplistic system of Secret and Top Secret was making it problematic to recruit and properly isolate potential candidates from these previously highly isolated regimes.

So in 1989, the FBI instituted a program referred to as Project HASCAT, which stood for Has Accessed Secret Computers And Technology, which was a program that identified domestically based individuals who had illicitly gained access to classified US Systems or Technology, but who didn’t appear at first glance to be a threat to national security. The concept was simple: To observe and understand rather than identify and incarcerate, as had previously been their modus operandi for every threat.

I was one of the first persons identified under the HASCAT program, so when the request for the accelerated Top Secret clearance came through by my employer, I learned this surprised the FBI greatly.

They never expected an employer to engage in someone who’d threatened the integrity of their systems.

So in 2004, a year after joining the NSA, I had been selected by the NSA to represent them at Central Services – at the request of the FBI.

Here’s a list of all of the government level clearances we finally came to agreement on in 2006, in no particular order:

1C or 2C – Federal
3C or 4C – Federal
5C or 6C – Federal
ADP 1
ADP 2
Ambassador
CIA Lifestyle Polygraph
COMSEC
CONFIDENTIAL
Cosmic Top Secret – ATOMAL/CTSA
DEA Clearance
Diplomat
DISA
DISCO
DOD
DOD Lifestyle Polygraph
DOD Secret
DOD – Top Secret SSBI
DOE – Nuclear
DOE – C
DOE – L
DOE – Q
DOJ – NACI
DOJ – Sensitive
DOJ – Secret
DOJ – Top Secret
EBI – Extended Background Investigation
FAA Clearance
FBI
Foreign Government Information
Industrial Clearance
Inactive Clearance
Inactive Top Secret Crypto
Interim Secret
Interim Top Secret
Interim TS / SCI
IRS – MBI
ISSA / CISSP
MBI (IRS)
NAC
NASA
NATO
NATO Secret
NSA Lifestyle Polygraph
Position of Public Trust 1C
Position of Public Trust 2C
Position of Public Trust 3C
Position of Public Trust 4C
Position of Public Trust 5C
Position of Public Trust 6C
Polygraph – Counterintelligence
Polygraph – Full Scope / Lifestyle
PA – Presidential Authority
SAR
S – Secret
Secret COMSEC
Secret SBI
SIDA – Secured Identification Defense Area
SAP – Special Access Programs
SBI – Special Background Investigation
SCI – Special Compartmented Intelligence
SSBI – Single Scope Background Inv.
Technology
TS – Top Secret
TS/CLI – Top Secret/CLI
Top Secret-Crypto
Top Secret-Crypto SCI / TK / G / HCS-P
Top Secret-Final / Crypto / Polygraph
Top Secret-SCI / SBI
Top Secret-SCI / HSC
Top Secret-SCI / SI / TK
Top Secret-SCI / SI / TK / G / B
Top Secret-SCI / SI / TK / G / HCS
Top Secret-SCI / SIOP
Top Secret-SCI / SSBI
Top Secret-SBI-TS/SBI
Top Secret-CISP-TS/CISP
Top Secret-ISSA-TS/ISSA
Top Secret-SAP-TS/SAP
Top Secret-SCI-CI polygraph-TS/SCI/CI Poly
Top Secret-SCI-Full/Scope Lifestyle-TS/SCI Lifestyle Poly
Top Secret-SCI-TS/SCI
Top Secret-SSBI-TS/SSBI
Top Secret-SCI /SSBI / SI / TK
Top Secret-SCI / TK / G / HCS / CI Poly
Top Secret-SCI / TK / G / Lifestyle Poly
Top Secret-SCI / SSBI / CI Poly
Top Secret-SI / TK / B / +
Top Secret-SSBI / CI Poly
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI / TK / G / HCS
Top Secret-SSBI / Lifestyle Poly
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI/ SI / TK / G
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI / SI / TK / G / B / HCS
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI / TK / HCS
Top Secret-SSBI / SCI-B
Top Secret-EBI
Top Secret-SCI – SI / TK / G / HCS / I / P
Top Secret-CISP – TS / CISP
Top Secret-ISSA – TS / ISSA
Top Secret-SAP – TS / SAP
Top Secret-SCI – CI Poly – TS / SCI / CI Poly
Top Secret-SCI – Full / Scope Lifestyle – TS / SCI Lifestyle
Top Secret-SCI – TS / SCI
Top Secret-SSBI – SCI / TK / B / HCS / CI – Poly
Top Secret-SSBI – TS / SSBI
US Citizen
US Customs
US Treasury Clearance
USPS
VR
Yankee Fire
Yankee White

It was suggested that TS/CLI was deprecated for this list. I fought violently for retaining it to pick up stragglers if you know what I mean.

The relevant named agencies are responsible for instituting the rules and procedures regarding their clearances.

In any case.

Why do we keep secrets?

There are numerous reasons, pro and con for them. From my personal and individual perspective, without secrets, I wouldn’t have a life story to tell you. I wouldn’t have made mistakes, that led to this imperfect being who is sending this message to you. Sure, my life could have been easier, admittedly, but in exchange for that ease is a sacrifice of my identity and freedom of choice. I value who I am and my story is that important, to me, and secrets are what has made that possible.

As a country or organization, we keep secrets for a myriad of similar reasons. Not just to isolate and protect the population, but also to encourage the development of identity and diversity. Oftentimes, we may be able to ‘calculate’ the most effective path for an individual and/or entity applying our world filters, views, perception, and ideals on that entity, but is that the best or the best choice for that entity we’re imposing our rose colored lens on?

To me, I sincerely believe I created this world based on the decisions – all of them – I made.

Am I right? For me, I am. For you, I may not be.

That’s the beauty of secrets.

Sometimes, it takes seeing someone or something else draw a life story which absolutely contradicts everything you think and value in order for you to grab a hold of your own life story and start painting your own picture of you.

Secrets. Allow for you to be different than me.

For without them.

You’d have complete trust, yes.

But nothing would come as a surprise any longer.

And some people, like me, enjoy surprises.

Especially when they wind up becoming pleasant ones.

And I especially like the idea of ensuring my children have their own to discover one of these days as well.

Just as my father did with me.

Thank you, Dad.

This will be the last time I acknowledge the name Brian.

I don’t need a state to approve what I refer to myself as to make it so.

– Q

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