Technical author leading resistance to background checks

Subject: Technical author leading resistance to background checks
From: "F. Marc de Piolenc" <piolenc -at- archivale -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 07 Sep 2007 17:08:11 +0800

"One of the primary concerns in the shootings that I read and can't find,
included the requirement that people working at NASA wear a security badge,
but security wasn't properly implemented. Employees are given security
clearance. Employers of contractors are required to implement the same
security measures with their employees. NASA discovered that contractors
were not given the appropriate security checks and stated that it will step
up security. Now we are here and JPL contractors are complaining about the
requirements of security badges, when the hostage stand-off and killing was
undertaken by a long-time contractor."

The question that we should be asking is: would the proposed security
measures have prevented the incident to which you attribute them? Answer: NO.

A background check checks...background. The past. Not the future -
not even current intentions or character. I'm willing to bet that
none of the people involved in the incident that you describe had any
prior record of violent behavior. All that the proposed measures will
do is justify the salaries of a legion of "security" drones, none of
whom will have any concept of what improving security actually entails.

A security badge says, at best, "this guy has permission to be here."
In fact, it doesn't even say that, because study after study has
shown that nobody ever checks badges to see if the person wearing the
badge is the person to whom it was assigned. (I particularly remember
a civilian employee of the Army, working at its Intelligence
headquarters at Fort Meade, who regularly came in with a photograph
of his dog pasted over his own on his badge, and was never caught.)
Access-control codes, too, are rarely checked, even in very sensitive
places. Thirty years in the business have convinced me that most
"security" procedures provide the illusion of security without, and
sometimes even to the detriment of, the substance.

The US government is repeating an obvious error: by trying to
"securitize" everybody, it is ensuring that nobody in a truly
sensitive position will receive sufficient scrutiny to actually catch
a terrorist, spy or saboteur. Even the US government, which steals
freely from each of us to maintain itself in the style to which it
has become accustomed, has only finite resources available. The more
that is dissipated in harrassment of tech geeks, the less is
available to do what actually needs doing.

Marc de Piolenc

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