Thebastidge: 11/01/2004 - 12/01/2004
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    Tuesday, November 30, 2004

    Hmmm...

    I wonder who's reading my blog, coming from the domain of (the agency that investigates security clearances)?

    They're probly mad at me now.

    [Stage whisper]Whoever you are, feel free to email me to find out what I'm up to. I welcome more contact with you guys. You're so shy and stand-offish on the phone and verge on cold and terse in your letters.[/stage whisper]


    I've had a few friends and aquaintences coming from military and government domains before, but after my last post, the very specific refers from that particular domain showed up in my logs. Very interesting. They must do vanity searches of themselves, or perhaps they're paranoid to know what people are saying about them.

    I was talking to a buddy of mine the other day, and he commiserated about my status, telling me that it recently took over 18 months merely to accomplish his 5-year periodic reinvestigation (the most standard of any security clearance investigation) with absolutley no negative findings whatsoever.

    Seriously, I thought we had increased our budget for Homeland Security. It seems we must be shorthanded in vital agencies involved in clearing personnel for sensitive positions. Did we spend all our money on those people who make us take our shoes off in airports?

    Another friend of mine who has an active secret clearance, had a top secret merely 4 years ago, (my TS/SCI was debriefed/closed in 1996) was recently denied her interim TS. Of course that doesn't mean that her final clearance is denied, but it does mean that a position that required the TS is not available to her at this point in time. She's got no problems with the law, finance, or loyalty. What could possibly be hanging her up? Who knows, because they won't tell you. You only find out when (and can't appeal any decisions until) they make your final clearance determination. At that time they tell you denied or approved. If you want more detail, it's another Freedom of Infomation Act request. In writing. By snailmail with original signature, no fax thank you very much. And sometimes they even tell you they want it notarized.

    I screwed up in 1998. I got a DUII (and a driving while suspended because of it), which I was convicted of (misdemeanor). I admit that I was wrong, that it was stupid and criminal. I was punished for it. At no time did I ever deny that the punishment was justified. I harbor no resentment against the system for my being so justly punished. I have made great effort to redeem myself in the time since.

    It has been 2 years and 7 months of being in 'adjudicating' status. I want my clearance reinstated, because I feel I have more to offer. Granted, it is also beneficial to me and my employment opportunities.

    But mainly, I just want an answer.

    Tuesday, November 23, 2004

    FOIA, my ass

    For several weeks, almost several months, in fact, I have been exchanging letters (via snailmail only, can't even conduct business over the phone or by fax, original signatures, SS#, all the personal information, etc. due to Privacy Act considerations. Although I'm not familiar with any facet of the PA that strictly prohibits Faxed signatures) with the [agency which investigates for security clearances]. I've been trying to get my industrial security clearance paperwork approved. Here's my latest letter (click 'read more'):

    Dear Ms. ______, [Ed: She is the 'Chief, Process Improvements Branch', it is to laugh]

    Thank you for your letter of November 17 in response to my Letter November 3 in reply to your letter of October 13. [Ed: My original thoughts were far more snarky, I managed to tone it down]

    In our earlier correspondence I suggested that I might be able to provide further information or clarification useful in the adjudicative process, and I requested contact information for the person handling my case. In your latest reply, you suggest again that I wait for my FSO [Ed: 'Facility Security Officer'] to be contacted, and note that my investigation was completed and sent for adjudication in April 2002. (Two and a half years ago.)

    However, I am more than slightly concerned about the status of my final clearance. It was only after multiple requests for information that I was able to determine the current status of my investigation. I do not have an FSO readily available to me to check with regularly, as my clearance request is initiated in conjunction with an offer of employment contingent upon the clearance. Thus I am still waiting for word on both.

    I have in the past held TS/SCI with various special accesses, with no problems. After a break in service, a new clearance request was initiated. From 1998 until mid-2002 I was in an Interim status, surely an unusually long time to be in such a status. When my investigation finally began processing, my Interim status was suspended. At the time I was Acting Info Systems Security Manager for my Air National Guard unit, and I was in a leading position for being hired as a full time Guard Technician in that position. That employment opportunity was denied to me with the suspension of my Interim clearance, which is understandable and indeed, the circumstances surrounding the suspension of my Interim clearance are entirely proper and according to regulation- I have no problem with that. This situation persisted with no apparent progress until 2004, culminating in a loss of jurisdiction (due to my medical discharge from the ANG) which terminated the adjudication without a final determination.

    In April of this year (within a month of my discharge from the ANG) a new request was issued for an industrial clearance (Secret). With the prior case not having been finally determined, my Interim Industrial Secret clearance was denied. This has up to this point prevented me from taking up my new employment position, pending final determination. Even my attempts to find out exactly where this process was stuck, were futile for the longest time (several exchanges of letters). It is now the end of November, seven months later, and I still have no word on the adjudication process.

    So, my concerns are: A) In the past, delay of my security clearance determination has cost me employment opportunities. B) It has been an extraordinarily long time since initiation of the request/adjudication. C) Your office has not been forthcoming about my status. D) My attempts to discover if more information or documentation is needed to determine or help expedite my final disposition have largely been frustrated. E) My inability to find out my status is hampering my ability to plan for my future, and even more distressingly, is preventing me from contributing my efforts to do my small part in the defense of my country. Although I have been medically disqualified from serving my country in a military capacity (after 13 years of service), I believe that I still have more to contribute.

    My requests are simple: A straight answer on where in the adjudication process my clearance is, and how long it normally takes to complete this process, as well as an estimate of how long before I can know my own final determination. I would like contact info for the person or person directly handling my case so that I can find out if there are any lacks of information or documentation that could help determine or expedite my case.

    I realize that you are busy and probably have a large case load. It is not my intent to jog your elbow on this matter, but given the length of time I have been waiting, it does not seem unreasonable that I am becoming impatient with this opaque process. I appreciate your attention to this matter and hope to hear from you soon with some substance.

    Sincerely,


    Does my frustration bleed through in this letter? You bet. Do I have much to lose? Not really. Sending it off today.

    Monday, November 22, 2004

    Part 15

    Chrenkoff's good news round-ups always bring a little cheer to me. Of course, not all news from Iraq is good, there's plenty of bad stuff going on,(Dan tells me that mortars dropping randomly into the green zone have hit unnervingly close a couple times) but it's good to know that the facts are not all as one-sided as the mainstream news would have us believe.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more progress on election preparations as the time gets closer.

    Monday, November 15, 2004

    Afghan Diaspora

    Previously, I posted links to Chrenkoff's Good News series. I didn't have much more to say than to point to it. It did make me think quite a bit about some longer term trends though. Now he has Good news from Afghanistan, Part 6 available.
    After decades of war and oppression, which left one million dead, forced some five million to flee across borders, and utterly devastated and impoverished the country, the Afghans are finally finding some reasons to be happy. Largely out of the international media spotlight, Afghanistan continues to progress along the winding road to peace, freedom and democracy.

    I have little of a factual nature to add, merely some commentary. The continuing repatriation of Afghan nationals and emigrants spurred some thoughts about progress. It seems to me that with the return of literally millions of Afghans who were brave enough, or educated enough, (or in some cases merely fortunate enough) to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban (not to mention the Soviets) took over will definitely be a significant modernizing, and quite likely very liberalizing influence.

    The Afghan Diaspora started with the Soviet invasion 25 years ago, but it seems to be reversing itself, a circumstance which clearly would not have happened without U.S. intervention. In fact, I would say that not only is the brain trust being rebuilt from the resources that once left Afghanistan, but the overall education, experience, and broadened viewpoints of the returnees has actually been improved by their time in more developed nations...
    the loss of human resources that Afghanistan experienced following the Soviet invasion of 1979 is often referred to as the ‘brain drain’. This paper postulates that a similar but ‘reverse brain drain’ is currently in progress as former Afghan nationals return to the country in droves to assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. While remaining aware of risks and challenges, the potential for building the capacity of civil society and the private sector is at its peak. This thesis is examined within the context of Afghan culture, opportunities for personal and professional growth in the United States for the Diaspora, and how these positive externalities can be harnessed to bring the maximal value added to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.

    In fact, it's doubtful that progress could have been so rapid without the returnees:
    Members of the Afghan Diaspora are already a major actor in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. Prominent Afghan intellectuals and entrepreneurs have returned home and are actively involved in public and private institutional capacity building. Other resourceful Afghans in developed countries should follow suit to fulfill their dream of helping reconstruct Afghanistan.

    It's complicated by the fact, having started with nothing or next to it, and likely many fled with only portable wealth or none at all, Afghans are not generally an affluent demographic in western nations, although to give credit where it's due, they have come a long way from where most started.
    Afghans in Germany
    The Afghan Diaspora Is characterized in two ways: Firstly, nearly all Afghans living in Germany came as refugees, and secondly, the vast majority especially of those arriving in the 1970's/ 1980's have a high level of education.

    Number of Afghans in Germany
    According to the German Federal Ministry of economic cooperation and development (BMZ) about 100.000 Afghans live in Germany. 22.000 Afghans live in Hamburg and constitute herewith not only the largest Diaspora community in Germany but also in Europe.

    Another thing that exiled Afghans are bringing back to their homeland is literature:
    Most of the literature is by Afghan exiles simply because they can afford time to write their ideas, have a press which will publish their work, and have the resources for such luxuries as paper and pen or a computer.


    Just having been exposed to different ways of thinking and loosening of class and ethnic boundaries by the democratic influences of the west will affect the future of Afghanistan in myriad subtle and obvious ways, and from my point of view, that seems to be a good thing.

    Thursday, November 11, 2004

    229 Years Old

    I hope all y'all U.S. Marines had a happy birthday.

    Wednesday, November 10, 2004

    Outside influence

    Hopefully a lot of these outsiders will be dissuaded by the crushing of Fallujah.

    Foreign fighters have been traveling to Iraq via Damascus
    Two months ago, after the shooting stopped in Najaf, many of the Lebanese fighters volunteered for service against the Americans in Fallujah. As insurgents, they were earning $800 a month—three times an Iraqi policeman's salary. Instead, Ali went home to the Bekaa Valley. "I got scared," he says. "Some local people were friendly, and some were not. It was like you had one enemy in front of you and one behind you."

    Tuesday, November 09, 2004

    Just Beautiful

    Installing Haloscan comments and trackback deleted all my previous Blogger comments. Nothing in the installation istructions about that.

    Oil output and prices

    Oil output and current prices have little to do with each other. Iraq's production, for example, has been back to pre-war levels for quite some time:

  • Oil Output Is Up, But Pace Of Future Growth Uncertain

  • GENERAL BACKGROUND


  • So the fact that oil prices have almost doubled and are hanging out over $50/barrel has more to do with nervous markets and speculation than supply. As such, some of those who are buying at these prices (and thus driving the price hike) are bound to get burned eventually when prices normalize (in other words, when they drop.)

    Iraq's economy (and for that matter,Afghanistan's as well) is booming right now. 50% growth this year (2004) by some acocunts. Per capita income is up 100's of percent. All this with a still-shaky security situation. Poor security is the number one barrier to foreign direct investment. Imagine how much better once this Falluja thing is finally sewn up.

    Monday, November 08, 2004

    Things we should all know

    Here's some good reading:

    Chrenkoff's take on 'Post-Totalitarian Stress Disorder'
    And then some good news from Iraq:
  • Part 1

  • Part 2

  • Part 3

  • Part 4

  • Part 5

  • Part 6

  • Part 7

  • Part 8

  • Part 9

  • Part 10

  • Part 11

  • Part 12

  • Part 13

  • Part 14

  • And some good news from Afghanistan:
  • Part 1

  • Part 2

  • Part 3

  • Part 4

  • Part 5
  • Sunday, November 07, 2004

    Dishonest reporting (yet again)

    I emailed the following letter to Bryan Bender, a reporter at the Boston Globe:

    Sir,

    In regards to your article of 6 November in the Boston Globe, specifically the following item:

    "Last week, a study in The Lancet, a British medical journal, estimated that 100,000 Iraqi civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed since the war began."

    Wouldn't it be more honest and balanced to have reported that this number is highly contested and that more credible sources range from a much smaller number UP TO about ten percent of that number (and that ten-thousand-ish figure includes Iraqi military, insurgents AND civilians)?

    Even the extremely anti-war website Iraq Body Count puts the number at 16371 as of my viewing (7 Nov 2004 4:37 AM Pacific time).


    I have little hope for much of a response.

    Friday, November 05, 2004

    Now it's time

    Now that we no longer have to worry about public backlash affecting the election, it's time to move into Falujah and roll those scumbags up.

    Monday, November 01, 2004

    Stolen Honor

    Don't take MY word for it. Watch the video