Screening the System: Exposing Security Clearance Dangers

Screening the System: Exposing Security Clearance Dangers

Screening the System: Exposing Security Clearance Dangers

Screening the System: Exposing Security Clearance Dangers

Synopsis

The Personnel Security Clearance System--the process by which the federal government incorporates individuals into secret national-security work--is flawed. After twenty-three years of federal service, Martha Louise Deutscher explores the current system and the amount of power afforded to the state in contrast to that afforded to those who serve it.

Deutscher's timely examination of the U.S. screening system shows how security clearance practices, including everything from background checks and fingerprinting to urinalysis and the polygraph, shape and transform those individuals who are subject to them. By bringing participants' testimonies to light, Deutscher looks at the efficacy of various practices while extracting revealing cultural insights into the way we think about privacy, national security, patriotism, and the state.

In addition to exposing the stark realities of a system that is in critical need of rethinking, Screening the System provides recommendations for a more effective method that will be of interest to military and government professionals as well as policymakers and planners who work in support of U.S. national security.

Excerpt

This book critically examines the personnel security clearance system, the process by which the federal government incorporates individuals into secret national security work, and how individuals experience the process. I pay particular attention to the ways in which security clearance practices discipline and transform individuals who are subject to them. Using the voices of the system’s participants, I explore the relationship between individual workers and state power as articulated in the personnel security clearance process.

I believe the public debate on security policy in general— and on the personnel security clearance system in particular— requires a new and more imaginative discussion if it is to improve. Discussions to date have been dominated by bureaucrats, security professionals, and politicians, who tend to treat the problems in the system with the same archaic policies and practices they have used in the past— with the same flawed results.

To the best of my knowledge, this is the only study to date that examines the impact of the national personnel security clearance system on the hearts and minds of both those who are subject to it and those who are tasked to maintain it. Although the book is based on my doctoral dissertation at George Mason University, I undertook this study for personal reasons. All science is part biography. I began my civil service career in 1990 with the United States Information Agency and held positions of increasing responsibility . . .

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