Monday, June 25, 2007

Titular Testation

I added a new title bar, Red faced, high in the clouds, Stone faced, getting revelation and standing a-skance from the light.

I like the new templates, very nice. Huzzah blogger, ol chaps.

So the FBI is trying to issue guidelines about University Employees to help people spot "enemies of state". Per

"FBI is offering to brief faculty, students and staff on what it calls 'espionage indicators' aimed at identifying foreign agents. Unexplained affluence, failing to report overseas travel, showing unusual interest in information outside the job scope, keeping unusual work hours, unreported contacts with foreign nationals, unreported contact with foreign government, military, or intelligence officials, attempting to gain new accesses without the need to know, and unexplained absences are all considered potential espionage indicators."

The trouble is, these guidelines need to be combined with some other common sense. I will take each of the identifiers they have used and comment on them:

Unexplained affluence
Just because someone in your employ at a school has some money, doesn't mean an explanation is even owed to anyone. Suppose he or she simply has a wealthy relative...even a wealthy foreign relative...and it just isn't anyone's business?

Failing to report overseas travel
I am not sure employees have to account to their workplace for where they go when they are not at work. Certainly one must possess the necessary documents to travel and this need not be dealt with at all by one's employer, it's an abuse of power and a violation of privacy I would think.

Showing unusual interest in information outside the job scope
Curiousity? Simple desire to learn new things? Are we all suddenly communist drones stuck in a fixed career for life? This is really a repressive notion.

Keeping unusual work hours
I work in IT and I know unusual hours can be common. If the hours comport with the job description this should not place anyone under suspicion, though as a management issue, some people need not be on site after hours.

Unreported contacts with foreign nationals
The implication that any social contact ought to be reported to an employer or school is really not sounding like my America. That is really disturbing. It is possible speak to foreign nationals regularly in this great land without it involving threatening national security or being anyone's business.

Unreported contact with foreign government, military, or intelligence officials
Again the word "unreported". As if I should file a memo to my boss all about who I met at lunch. What is the imagined hypothetical situation here? An employer spots his copy clerk at wine bar on the weekend sitting with a uniformed general and confronts the employee for not "reporting" the meeting? I find this kind of suspicion frenzy dangerous to civil, free society.

Attempting to gain new accesses without the need to know
"Hey...can I have the password to the server with the grades on it"...I suppose it's common sense that some employees or students do not need access to sensitive private information. Though this could lead to a knee jerk reaction to interest in perfectly legitimate public information.

Unexplained Absences
This can happen to anyone. Really, you have a personal emergency and miss a school day. How many people skip their own classes for no good reason at all? I don't think this one alone really seals the deal for determining a spy.

I care about my country, I love it enough not to want it to spiral into the salem witch trials because most every key identifier for espionage is something that could be a simple matter of liberty and privacy and not necessarily indicate anything.

Besides, how clumsy and stupid do they think someone would be if they were really a spy? The safety of the nation is important, though so is the character of the life we are preserving. If most people fit into some of these identifiers at some time we may be just inciting panic for no good reason, causing a majority of false positives and unnecessary suspicion and mistrust.

Our society is free because of trust. If the FBI allows the threats from abroad to erode trust they may be doing far more damage to our own country than an enemy could inflict on us.


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