Saturday, October 25, 2008

Routine Checks

Earlier this month, I got my new Government ID card. In going on twenty-eight years of Federal service, it is the fifth version of such a card I have been issued. (I'd show it here, but it's against the law to duplicate it. Besides, it says where I work, and you know the rules here...) I must wear it on my person to gain access to a Federal Government building or facility. I had to wear the earlier version of it on the street on September 12, 2001, just to walk around without getting hassled. It is the ID card I wear on a chain around my neck when I'm going through security checks at an airport.

It is also the third ID card I've been issued, with an embedded "smart chip." That's a little computer chip which is supposed to contain pertinent information about the bearer. The previous two versions did not avail themselves of this technology. But they finally figured out how it works, so this one does, with a digital read-out of my fingerprints, among other things.

That's because this card was issued to accompany my having cleared a low-level background check, under the terms of Homeland Security Presidential Directive Number 12, or "HSPD-12." The process began about six months ago, when I filled out the necessary paperwork, when people checked my refereneces both here at work and elsewhere, and when I was fingerprinted for the first time in my life. When I finally got my card, which has my photograph on it (I liked my face on the last one better), it was activated after my right index finger was scanned for verification.

No, wearing this card in an airport security line won't make the TSA guys be nicer to me. But it will tell them that I'm safer than the guy who doesn't have one, all other things being equal.

Now, a low-level background check won't get me into every Government facility. It won't get me into the Pentagon, the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, or the West Wing of the White House, without an escort. Those who get into those places on their own need more thorough background checks. The last time I looked into this, those deals cost the Federal taxpayer up to $50,000 apiece. For those, they send guys in suits who never crack a smile to talk to the neighbors where you grew up. They check your grade school records. They check your high school records. They find out about that DUI conviction you got the summer after graduation. They find out whether you were the go-to guy for buying nickel bags of weed in your dorm. They learn about credit records, tax records, unpaid parking tickets. They discover every known address you've ever had, every club or association to which you've ever belonged. They find out things about you that only your MAMA knows. They find out things about you that your mama DON'T know. They find out things about you that YOU don't know.

And when they're done with that, they'll know whether you fit the criteria to be trusted with matters affecting this nation's security and safety. They don't regard partisan political affiliation. They are so beyond all that. They don't make the rules. They just follow them. The rules apply to everybody, including people who work in the White House.

Which brings us to the matter of at least one person looking for a job there.

Daniel Pipes of the Philadelphia Bulletin examines the known associations of Barack Obama, and their significance in determining the background, and therefore his suitability, for high office:

Specifically, he has longstanding, if indirect ties to two institutions, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), listed by the U.S. government in 2007 as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas-funding trial; and the Nation of Islam (NoI), condemned by the Anti-Defamation League for its "consistent record of racism and anti-Semitism."

There is nothing wrong with a Federal employee who is a Muslim. Years ago, I worked for one who was a political appointee. He was my friend. I was at his house. I met his family. I broke bread with them. In my library is a copy of the Qu'ran that he gave me as a gift. (No, I've never kissed it; it is there for a reference.) Indeed, there is nothing wrong in America with being a Muslim. There is something wrong with lying about having ever been one, to avoid being linked to people who take those beliefs too far. No, Obama is not a Muslim, but it is clear that at some point in his life, he was raised as one. That was his stepfather's decision, not his. As one who is now an openly declared, committed Christian, that makes Obama an apostate, one who deserves severe punishment under Islamic law. Which makes one wonder all the more about his known associations. What does he have to gain? What do they have to gain?

Freedom of assembly -- and by extension, association -- is a treasured Constitutional right. But freedom should not be confused with license. The former assumes a restraint on behavior, so as not to interfere with the freedom of others. It is why we have laws to protect those freedoms. It also lends the term a less open-ended meaning than merely "doing whatever I want." Even a GS-3 Clerk/Typist on the Federal payroll takes an oath upon beginning their employment, to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States "from all enemies, foreign and domestic." It stands to reason that such an individual would have nothing to do, with people who have decided otherwise.

You can argue whether McCain's tax plan or Obama's tax plan is better. You can argue whether McCain or Obama will make the right decisions returning this nation to prosperity. You can argue whether McCain or Obama has better Hollywood endorsements. You can argue whether McCain or Obama is more likely to cause that feeling going up your leg. Forget all that. One of them will spend the next four years in the constant company of a Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps lieutenant colonel, or a Navy or Coast Guard commander, who carries a briefcase known as "the football" handcuffed to their wrist. That briefcase will contain the launch codes for every missile system this nation has at its disposal. That briefcase could start (or prevent) the next world war, and only the man or woman being followed by the officer holding "the football" can have what's in that briefcase. And yet, Barack Hussein Obama, under Federal law as it is currently written, would be unlikely to get a job as a GS-3 Clerk/Typist in his own White House.

There is a time to dream, to wish, to hope, that the world could be an ideal place. There is a time to wish we could forget about every dumb-ass thing we ever did in our past, and move on. There is a time to wish that the things that led us to where we are now really don't matter. This isn't one of those times. It doesn't matter what you think about who somebody running for public office hangs around with. What matters, is that it matters. What matters is the very notion of law, the way the world works, the way a civilized society must hold itself together, lest everything fall apart. Forget all that hippie-dippie folk-singing protest-shouting bull$#!† that you and your cocktail-party schmoozing, SUV-driving friends go on about. Neither James Taylor nor Opie Taylor nor Oprah Winfrey will come out from their private bunkers, to protect you from total mayhem in the streets, the kind you saw in Manhattan on CNN during 9-11, the kind that could happen in any major American city (and that almost has in the last six years). That is why we are a nation of laws.

What's the bottom line? Obama's ties to people and organizations who would have things otherwise, to the extent that such is already public knowledge -- again, putting aside whether voters like you give a rat's ass or not -- mean that he would, as Pipes takes the time to explain, "fail the standard security clearance process for Federal employees." That's just a REGULAR clearance, okay? Never mind the kind that get you into places that are guarded by guys with high-powered rifles who only need one shot and never miss. Like the White House.

(You will notice the article does not even mention the political assistance and collaborative history of Obama and William Ayers, a known and self-admitted domestic terrorist, responsible for attacks on both the Pentagon and the United States Capitol, two buildings that were also targets on 9-11. That relationship alone would call security concerns into question, based upon the same criteria discussed here.)

But you're sitting there, reading your New York Times, drinking your four-dollar latte, ready to dismiss everything I've just told you because of some feeling going up your leg, and ready to vote for Obama to be the next President of the United States.

What does this say about you?

[IMAGE: Caption reads as follows: "This registration document from the Fransiskus Assisi school in Jakarta, a Catholic institution, was first made available by the Associated Press on Jan 24, 2007, in a photograph taken by Tatan Syuflana and listed by AP as photograph 070125010606. It calls Obama 'Barry Soetoro,' a combination of his nickname and the family name of his Indonesian step-father, Lolo Soetoro. The document records Barry Soetoro's religion as Islam and his nationality as Indonesian." Image used without permission or shame.]

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