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Thread: military security clearance

  1. #1
    Old dog, a few new tricks
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    military security clearance

    I notice that a number of military veterans have posted in this forum, so I'll try my question here. Also, please excuse me if I'm vague on details but given that my question is about the risk of revealing classified information, I think you'll understand.

    Many years ago, as an enlisted E-5 technician I worked closely with airborne nuclear weapons. My unit was involved in a very dangerous confrontation with the Soviets, one that could have been catastrophic.

    Many years after leaving the service I thought I'd write a personal account of this experience for a favorite spiritual magazine. Before I did that, however, I went to a veteran's forum and without revealing much more than I have here, asked if I might still be restricted by military security regulations. (I had a Secret clearance.) I do know that the broader facts about the incident were declassified after 25 years but nothing I've read mentions specific weapons or other details.

    I got a quick reply on that forum from a former officer who strongly advised me to shut up and
    forget it.

    A long time has now passed. I don't want to be paranoid but military conditioning dies hard. I can't just shrug off the security issue and take a chance.

    What do you think?

  2. #2
    nurturing tomorrows criminals today PorterStarrByrd's Avatar
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    I've had a few interesting experiences my clearances exposed my to too. My stance would be that as long as you aren't revealing current secrets, defaming someone, or extremely emarrasing your coutry ... go for it

    I am reading "Skunk Works" by one of the guys who developed stealth. There are many things in there thjat would have him sent to leavenworth 30 years ago if he wrote about them then, but are common knowledge now. Ben Rich, the co author ran the show during the development of several projects that 'didn't exist' when he was in charge. Now he talks freely about them with no resistance from the CIA or others involved back then.
    http://porterstarrbyrd.blogspot.com/


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  3. #3
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    Basically, if you've held a security clearance, you have a "to the grave" obligation to keep your secrets to yourself UNLESS you coordinate with a Department of Defense organization who can do a pre-publication review to ensure what you want to talk about has been declassified or what you're saying is actually declassified.

    Some stuff becomes unclassified after 25 years.
    Some stuff never becomes unclassified.
    It's not worth spending time in Leavenworth or one of the other wonderful resorts the government runs to take the chance. Get pre-pub approval or prepare to spend a lot of money on lawyers.

  4. #4
    "Assume Good Intentions" SuperModerator Williebee's Avatar
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    Get pre-pub approval or prepare to spend a lot of money on lawyers.
    This.

    I've been out since '91. There are places I still can't go. And conversations that happen with no nouns. *shrug*

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  5. #5
    Attack of the Hurricane Turtles! MagicWriter's Avatar
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    GrouchPotato-

    Go to the nearest bookstore or library. Browse a copy of Gary Berntsen's Jawbreaker. The answer you are looking for is in the author's note & acknowledgements in the first few pages.

    It will also give you a good example of how the CIA edits a MS...especially the first paragraph of chapter 3.

  6. #6
    practical experience, FTW
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    It seems you've forgotten what was in the "fine print" of your clearance... Any attempt to disclose what may be deemed restricted or classified material without proper authorization will be problematic for you. You may consider that an understatement. The wisest course is to check first, disclose later. Know what you're getting into - before it's too late.

  7. #7
    practical experience, FTW
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    Did you get debriefed after the incident and/or did you sign anything related to the incident? If you did not, then there's a 99% chance you don't know anything you can't talk about. I had a top secret-SCI clearance, and every time we were exposed to sensitive information it was made very clear what we could and couldn't talk about. We would sometimes also have to sign additional confidentiality forms even though we already had the overall clearance.
    If you're worried about it, do a google search and see if you can find the information already in the public domain, or get authorization before you disclose anything.

  8. #8
    Ah-HA! Smiling Ted's Avatar
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    When you seek clearance, try to find an officer who shares the same spiritual/religious beliefs that you do. If your permission-to-publish situation depends on a judgment call by that officer, better to have him predisposed in your favor.
    "Crazy visions you got. Come with me to barber, we bleed you, you see right, everything good. I buy for you first leech."
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  9. #9
    Writer Beware's Faithful Igor Richard White's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by espresso5 View Post
    Did you get debriefed after the incident and/or did you sign anything related to the incident? If you did not, then there's a 99% chance you don't know anything you can't talk about. I had a top secret-SCI clearance, and every time we were exposed to sensitive information it was made very clear what we could and couldn't talk about. We would sometimes also have to sign additional confidentiality forms even though we already had the overall clearance.
    If you're worried about it, do a google search and see if you can find the information already in the public domain, or get authorization before you disclose anything.

    Uh, no.

    Just because something is in the public domain does NOT mean it's been declassified.

    You neither confirm NOR deny anything.

    When in doubt, go to an OFFICIAL source and see whether you can talk about it or not. Otherwise, be prepared to hire good lawyers because the government has very good ones and damn near unlimited funds to pursue something if they get their hackles up.

    Seriously, guys. This is something you shouldn't fool around with.

  10. #10
    Tribal Flame Warden Ducky Crayonz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard White View Post
    Seriously, guys. This is something you shouldn't fool around with.
    QFT.

    As someone who is currently in the service and has a secret clearance, I second everything White has said at the top of my lungs.

    And while I don't know about you, but my contract said that even once I leave the service, if I disclosed classified information, I could be court martialed/thrown in jail with no questions asked. If something requires clearance to see or know about, you don't tell anyone about it unless you have been given explicit permission.
    (Opinion posted above is just that, an opinion, and should be treated as such. ;P)

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  11. #11
    Old dog, a few new tricks
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    I have no further stomach for dealing with military authorities or going hat in hand to the DOD. If I do write this piece, perhaps as an exercise in auto-therapy, it will go into a drawer, a curiosity for whoever clears out my stuff.

    Thanks! I really do appreciate all of your comments and advice.

  12. #12
    Benefactor Member WeaselFire's Avatar
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    My clearance required a strongly, and tightly, worded non-disclosure clause. If I remember it right, I cannot reveal anything, ever. I can't even corroborate the public disclosures. I was not in the military so it may be different.

    Ohhh... I've said too much. Everyone please line up against the wall so I can kill you...

    Jeff

  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW benluby's Avatar
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    Not even remotely worth the risk. Even if you can find 'best guess' situations that hit the nail on the head, that doesn't give clearance to disclose it.
    Debriefs are nice, but not required. You're expected to know that you'll get information that shouldn't be known by anyone else, and thus, do not disclose it.
    I'm sure most of us on here who have secrets or higher are well aware of information that, even though we've seen it in public domain, still don't comment on it because that is simply how it goes.
    Sometimes, it's not so much the information but HOW they got it that warrants the classification.

  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW auriel's Avatar
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    Not sure that this is helpful at all, but here's a real-life scenario that recently happened.

    I work in an Army library as a DoD civilian (no security clearance). A certain book about a Navy SEALs mission was published without clearing through the DoD to make sure it did not have classified info. We bought a copy on request of patrons. However, since we are under the judisdiction of the Department of the Army, there was apparently some conflict about what to do with this book so we weren't violating any laws. Eventually we were given instructions from on high that basically said:
    -Libraries that haven't bought this book cannot buy it.
    -Libraries that bought this book can keep it but cannot buy any more copies.
    -Libraries must include with the book a notice from the Dept of the Army, with instructions for patrons to read upon check-out, that basically instruct any patrons with knowledge of any classfied information contained within the book to not disclose it, talk about it, speculate about whether it was classified, etc.
    This has never happened before.

    Basically, everyone kind of panicked because the status of classified info in this book was up in the air. And now the writer of said book is facing inquiries. So, when in doubt - get it cleared from someone in authority.

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