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    #1

    Default "Top Secret America" article in Washington Post

    So apparently this morning the Washington Post published an article about the Top Secret community across the USA and their findings of their 2 year investigation. As an IT professional this is very interesting to me as I have always been aware of TOP SECRET CLEARANCE jobs but was never able to apply to them.


    Anyway, this article is also going to be made into a PBS Frontline show this fall as well. FRONTLINE: Coming Soon: Top Secret America - the top secret world the government created in response to the 9/11 attacks | PBS

    Will Arkin interview on DemocracyNow!
    "Top Secret America" _Washington Post_ Investigation Reveals Massive, Unmanageable, Outsourced US Intelligence System


    "Top Secret America includes hundreds of federal departments and agencies operating out of 1,300 facilities around this country. They contract the services of nearly 2,000 companies. In all, more people than live in our nation’s capital have top-secret security clearance. " - PBS Frontline

    "Really the most significant finding, to me, is the number of private companies in America who have been enlisted in the war on terrorism and who have now become an intrinsic part of government, really where the line is blurred between government and private sector. And the fact that there are almost 2,000 companies that do top-secret work in—for the intelligence community and the military is not only surprising to me as someone who actually put together the data, but it really asks some fundamental questions about the nature of government and the nature of accountability. " - Will Arkin

    "But today’s national security establishment really values information technology more than it values weapons. And really, one of the things that was most surprising to us, but maybe not so surprising given the nature of society, is that a half of the companies in this particular area are really IT companies, information technology companies, and support companies. " - Will Arkin

    That last part shocked me entirely as I had no idea that private sector IT was at the forefront of guarding and protecting America's secrets and InfoSec systems.

    Interesting to say the least...........raises some great questions about how logical it is for private corporations who have a profit motive obligation above patriotism to be involved in this field.
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    #2
    I saw this article via twitter. Very interesting indeed. I'm not really sure how I feel about it either.
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  4. Certification Invigilator Forum Admin JDMurray's Avatar
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    #3
    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    "Top Secret America includes hundreds of federal departments and agencies operating out of 1,300 facilities around this country. They contract the services of nearly 2,000 companies. In all, more people than live in our nation’s capital have top-secret security clearance. " - PBS Frontline
    Those numbers are too small. There are many companies producing unclassified good and services that are rolled into classified programs that aren't being counted. For example, Dell and Microsoft are probably not in the companies counted, but they aid in the cyber warfare effort. There is probably very few classified projects that don't use at least one Open Source product in their software.

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    That last part shocked me entirely as I had no idea that private sector IT was at the forefront of guarding and protecting America's secrets and InfoSec systems.
    This is not shocking at all. The IT people are on the front line of the "cyberwar." When someone in Country X attacks a business in Country Y, it's over the Internet. And who controls the network ingress/egress of Company Y? The lowly IT people do. The other major source of cyber attacks, social engineering, is more of a physical security and employee education issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    Interesting to say the least...........raises some great questions about how logical it is for private corporations who have a profit motive obligation above patriotism to be involved in this field.
    The USA has a Capitalistic economic system. The government (DoD) is shoveling money at the cyberwarfare "problem." Business people are responding as good Capitalists should. This is why the USA leads the world in most technological progress.
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    #4
    Quote Originally Posted by JDMurray View Post
    This is not shocking at all. The IT people are on the front line of the "cyberwar." When someone in Country X attacks a business in Country Y, it's over the Internet. And who controls the network ingress/egress of Company Y? The lowly IT people do. The other major source of cyber attacks, social engineering, is more of a physical security and employee education issue.
    I think you missed my point. I am NOT referring to OS vendors, and hardware/infrastructure companies and ISPs that provide the physical networks but more rather the companies that work directly for the DoD, CIA, National Directorate of Intelligence, etc.....

    I don't care whether its shocking or not, but is this in the best interests of our national security and intelligence? To me it appears much easier for espionage and other traitorous activities to take place under the current system. How could the government even BEGIN to understand which companies are a national security threat?

    What if the CEO of company X, Y, and Z are Pakistani, or Chinese nationals?
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    #5
    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    I think you missed my point. I am NOT referring to OS vendors, and hardware/infrastructure companies and ISPs that provide the physical networks but more rather the companies that work directly for the DoD, CIA, National Directorate of Intelligence, etc.....

    I don't care whether its shocking or not, but is this in the best interests of our national security and intelligence? To me it appears much easier for espionage and other traitorous activities to take place under the current system. How could the government even BEGIN to understand which companies are a national security threat?

    What if the CEO of company X, Y, and Z are Pakistani, or Chinese nationals?
    I think that's why they have the classification sytem in place. The government isn't going to just trust anyone or any organization. It's hard enough for me to get a "secret squirrel" job within the military so I can imagine how long it would take for a civilian or civilian company to get a similar type of job or contract.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JDMurray View Post
    This is why the USA leads the world in most technological progress.
    How do you measure this? While I respect your opinion, I am just curious how you are defining technological progress. To me from what I have read, China and Japan (especially China) are further ahead.
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    #7
    Quote Originally Posted by thomAZ View Post
    I think that's why they have the classification sytem in place. The government isn't going to just trust anyone or any organization. It's hard enough for me to get a "secret squirrel" job within the military so I can imagine how long it would take for a civilian or civilian company to get a similar type of job or contract.
    That's a good point, but I think the larger issue is that there are so many how can you track 875,000 people and the possibilities of espionage? It's simply not possible and we don't have the resources to do it.
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    #8
    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    I think you missed my point. I am NOT referring to OS vendors, and hardware/infrastructure companies and ISPs that provide the physical networks but more rather the companies that work directly for the DoD, CIA, National Directorate of Intelligence, etc.....

    I don't care whether its shocking or not, but is this in the best interests of our national security and intelligence?
    How many Stealth fighter planes has the US gov built? (Hint: the answer is a very small number, less than "1".)

    How many army tanks has the US gov built? How many computer systems has the US gov built? Rifles? Cruise missiles?

    In case it hasn't been obvious to everybody for a long time now, it's ALWAYS been the "private sector" that has developer our country's weapons systems, defense technologies, etc. The gov simply buys them. In some cases, the gov goes so far as to fund research and development of them (DARPA), but that's a small percentage.

    Do you think all those companies working on the next-gen systems -- from rifles to attack satellite systems -- are NOT getting TS clearances? How could they not?

    When I was working on the B-2 bomber braking systems 20 years ago -- as an employee of Loral Defense Systems, which was in turn contracting for Boeing -- darned near everybody in the division had S or TS clearance. Otherwise nothing could get done, since so many departments depend on others. Back then, even getting "copies" of specs required that the folks in the copy room had TS clearances, since they ran the copy machines.

    Frankly, I'd be surprised if those numbers quoted for company counts isn't REALLY low. It's just that the REALLY secret ones aren't even willing to admit it.

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    What if the CEO of company X, Y, and Z are Pakistani, or Chinese nationals?
    Uhm.... that's why we HAVE the clearances in the first place, right? They don't just give them away, you know: they do a thing called a "background check" on a person applying for one, and it really isn't just a rubber-stamp type of deal.

    If the owner of a company is questionable, then the company probably doesn't get to work on a TS job. *shrug* (I've personally seen a case where a company board replaced a top-level exec for exactly that sort of thing, when I was working for NCR Electronics about 15 years ago. It's not taken lightly.)
    Last edited by wizardfish; 07-19-2010 at 09:10 PM.
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    By funding levels and processing power. Everything in america that comes out of research seems to be aimed at military application first then civilian. It's quite remarkable actually you're making history every day with the levels of funding you provide in war research Even my ivy mates had most of there research adapted to the american war machine. It was the only way they can assure continued funding.
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    #10
    Quote Originally Posted by ScottFern View Post
    I think you missed my point. I am NOT referring to OS vendors, and hardware/infrastructure companies and ISPs that provide the physical networks but more rather the companies that work directly for the DoD, CIA, National Directorate of Intelligence, etc.....
    You are in belief that these private sector companies have somehow become agencies of the US government? Don't worry, they haven't. They are private business contracted by agencies of the US government and DoD to develop solutions to problems. I work for one of the largest defense contractors on Planet Earth, and we are in no way consider an agency of the U.S. government. Being forced to become part of the government in order to do business with the government would not be in keeping with the rules of Capitalism.
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    Quote Originally Posted by knwminus View Post
    How do you measure this? While I respect your opinion, I am just curious how you are defining technological progress. To me from what I have read, China and Japan (especially China) are further ahead.
    I suspect the answer is that JD's read about it from various sources.

    China is largely an agricultural nation, and a poor one at that. It's wealth per capita is way down the list. It has a very corrupt form of government and business. The one child policy will dramatically affect that nation within the next 20 years. They have a lot of labor to offer at a low price, but comparative advantage will ultimately get them there. This is not a nation that is a technology leader, rather, it's a follower. It's historically a market that you want to sell things into, not buy things from....

    Japan on the other hand definitely is ahead of the US in some specific areas, but they are held back by xenophobia and draconian immigration laws. Japan is a dying nation, and will never be an overall technology leader.

    I don't think there's really one source that you can go to to get you all of the perspectives that are necessary to truly understand this, but I recommend starting with:

    Amazon.com: The Next 100 Years: A Forecast for the 21st Century (9780767923057):…

    Where the US goes, the world follows....

    MS
    Last edited by eMeS; 07-20-2010 at 12:32 AM.
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  13. Senior Member TheShadow's Avatar
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    It is a shame that they do not teach this in schools anymore. It was the following excerpt that sparked my interest in IT. From outgoing U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961 whom to most is just some old guy that shows up in war movies.

    I wonder what his thoughts would have been if he had lived to see what we have created. This was a five star general that understood generals and what would become our spook network. As a very young lad I thought to myself 'why would a famous general and president be afraid of a computer'? --the birth of a geek.

    This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

    In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

    We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

    Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

    In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

    Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

    The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific technological elite.
    I wanted to always know how to figure out where the off switch was. That was a naive goal as many are starting to realize after 9/11

    oh well go with the flow now and hope for the best to stay off no fly lists.
    Last edited by TheShadow; 07-20-2010 at 02:29 AM.
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    #13
    Quote Originally Posted by knwminus
    How do you measure this? While I respect your opinion, I am just curious how you are defining technological progress. To me from what I have read, China and Japan (especially China) are further ahead.

    Quote Originally Posted by eMeS View Post
    I suspect the answer is that JD's read about it from various sources.
    I didn't respond to the original post because it is off-topic for this thread, and I considered it bait for an argument that can't be resolved. It is my (strong) opinion; I don't feel the need to back it up with anything but the last 100 years of U.S. history.
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    #14
    Private contractors are generally the tech people behind the Gov's infrastructure. They are also behind a ton of intelligence and security operations (both cyber and physical). In the cyber warfare game your tech is coming from a bunch of contractors. Cyber security is definitely the cash cow in gov contracting right now.

    I don't really know why you would be any more concerned with espionage from contractors over your average GS employee. Contractors go through the same background check as the majority of your gov employees. Many contractors are polygraphed (CI and Fullscope) for intelligence positions. If you have a TS clearance you will be getting a background check every 5 years. If you have a blemish on your record you are more than likely going to lose your clearance. Also, most agencies have the ability to polygraph you at any point. They can randomly do so, if they suspect you of anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by knwminus View Post
    How do you measure this? While I respect your opinion, I am just curious how you are defining technological progress. To me from what I have read, China and Japan (especially China) are further ahead.
    The amount of technology used in defense, cyber warfare, and cyber security is amazing. That's one side of the technology coin. I'm fairly certain we are the super power in just about all those things.

    I don't really care for them publishing this article. The list of contractors and the list of facilities that do TS work is about retarded. I do know the information on the big contractors was out there, but a lot of the small firms were obscure. I also like the Google map and how many agencies are working in that particular location. I really don't agree with this. They could potentially be putting people in danger here.
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by L0gicB0mb508 View Post
    They could potentially be putting people in danger here.
    From Spear Phishing attacks? Or dangerous only to the people that travel overseas?

    If you want to find people that work on DoD projects, just search through Dice, LinkedIn, and FaceBook.
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    #16
    Quote Originally Posted by L0gicB0mb508 View Post
    I don't really care for them publishing this article. The list of contractors and the list of facilities that do TS work is about retarded. I do know the information on the big contractors was out there, but a lot of the small firms were obscure. I also like the Google map and how many agencies are working in that particular location. I really don't agree with this. They could potentially be putting people in danger here.
    Yeah, transparency with who works with the federal government is just an awful idea!!!!

    Citizens should just shut up and let them do whatever it is they do in complete secrecy!!! /SARCASM

    I am not talking about mission specifics but some oversight is wise. Or is it? Just ask the MMS how great they regulated oil wells.
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  18. Senior Member TheShadow's Avatar
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    #17
    Quote Originally Posted by L0gicB0mb508 View Post
    They could potentially be putting people in danger here.
    You do realize that every federal contract awarded is published in a little daily paper called the Federal Register don't you. No matter how large or small. My little company was in there several times before it went under during Clinton's aerospace consolidation.

    That little redhead that we just sent home or anyone else can compile a list. So if a person is afraid of transparency then they should not do government work because everyone that needs to know and those that do not still know who you are or at least who your employer is.

    A security clearance is no big deal and a good portion of 18 year olds end up with one when they join the military. The military's job is to kill people and break things everything else is done by civilians. All need a clearance that simply says that they know how to keep their mouth shut and they won't sell stuff belonging to or funded by the government.

    I would be more concerned with being a bank employee with the combination to the safe on a national holiday. Now that is a potentially dangerous job if the right people find out.
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    #18
    Quote Originally Posted by TheShadow View Post
    A security clearance is no big deal and a good portion of 18 year olds end up with one when they join the military.
    The latest figure is that 854,000 people in the US have some form of Top Secret clearance. Mind you that there are dozens of grades of TS clearances, plus SCI clearances for thousands of specific programs. More confusing than the black belt rankings in a martial arts school it is.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheShadow View Post
    All need a clearance that simply says that they know how to keep their mouth shut and they won't sell stuff belonging to or funded by the government.
    Yes, having a security clearance is a validation of a particular measure of trustworthiness.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheShadow View Post
    The military's job is to kill people and break things...
    Is that your definition of "national defense?"
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    #19
    Quote Originally Posted by JDMurray View Post

    Is that your definition of "national defense?"
    Pretty much in layman's or war vet terms, unless you have a bunch of friends with names like fat Tony, Guido or Luca. There is the second option of achieving neighborhood nuclear supremacy but my grandson doesn't understand that he can't use the plutonium as a marble.
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    [QUOTE=TheShadow;431743]You do realize that every federal contract awarded is published in a little daily paper called the Federal Register don't you.

    See also: Federal Business Opportunities web site: fbo.gov.
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