Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Cover Your Tracks

I recently heard from one of my readers who holds a Top Secret clearance and who has SCI access. His clearance was up for a Single-Scope Background Investigation (SSBI) periodic reinvestigation (PR). These SSBI-PRs are standard practice for anyone who holds a Top Secret clearance with access to Special Access Programs (SAPs), Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), or nuclear ("Q Access") programs. He told me that he was the subject of an "Expanded Reinvestigation" and in the course of that investigation he was challenged by investigators about his loyalty. The challenges, he discovered,were based upon his e-mail history and the assortment of books that he had purchased for his Kindle reader. Among other prepper-oriented books, he had Kindle copies of all three of my novels, and the investigator's report specifically mentioned them as suspect.
I find it almost comically absurd that for someone to possess copies of novels that have been on the New York Times bestseller list is somehow "Un-American" or "disloyal." But there you have it. We have now reached the era of ultimate inversion. The kissing cousins of the Stasi have been put in charge of guarding the hen house. They have unilaterally declared that family preparedness is now be disloyal and unpatriotic. So being prepared like a Boy Scout and stocking up on canned goods like your grandmother is something suspect, or somehow sinister. Lord help us.
At the risk of having my blog's web statistics take a hit, I feel obliged to warn my readers: If you are in a "position of special trust and confidence" (you know who you are: You hold a TS clearance with a bunch of funny little letters following the "TS") then I recommend that you take the following precautions:
  • Completely avoid using any government-owned computer or network for web surfing. Use only privately owned computers and non-DOD/non-government networks.
  • Use The Onion Router (Tor) for all of your web browsing. If you are not familiar with Tor, then get up to speed quickly.
  • Use anonymous re-mailers for any e-mails that say anything more than: "I miss you and I can't wait to get home from this deployment."
  • Use an inexpensive VPN service.
  • Be very careful about how you phrase your e-mails, even if they go through a re-mailer and use strong encryption. Warn all of your friends and relatives to do likewise in their e-mails to you. (Since the contents of incoming e-mails can be nearly as damning as outgoing e-mails, in the eyes of investigators.)
  • Rather than copying and pasting the text of anything controversial from any web site, instead send just Permalink URLs, couched with statements like: "I haven't had the chance to read this yet, but Bob said it was worth reading" (or some such.) This will provide plausible deniability.
  • If you buy any books that might be deemed controversial then buy only hard copies, pay cash, and don't leave a paper trail. I would suggest gun shows, preparedness expos, and "brick and mortar" bookstores are the best places to buy such books. If you are deployed overseas, then have your relatives buy books for you and ask them to send them to you in Flat Rate boxes.
  • Don't consider ANYTHING you do over the Internet to be "secure", even if you use strong encryption.
  • Get in the habit of sending traditional typed or hand-written letters. If you are worried about the receiver of the letter being under surveillance (a warrantless Postal Mail Cover), then put their address in both the TO and FROM blocks on the envelope.
The foregoing precautions are now only recommended only for folks with a Top Secret clearance that requires a SSBI. But everyone else reading this should pay attention. Who knows? You may need to take similar steps, if the statists tighten their grasp on our collective throats. - J.W.R.
(originally published here)
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