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Thread: Social Scientists Work Being Involuntarily Classified

  1. #41
    Council Member wm's Avatar
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    Default Waiter, there's a mouse in my soup!

    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    Overclassification, and unnecessary classification are a seperate although related problem, and probably still on topic. However, what I am most concerned about is actually the taking of things that were never classified, and perhaps not even produced by the government and then classifying them.

    Here's a counterfactual example: I have heard, but cannot confirm, that Tom Clancy's "Hunt for Red October" and he and Larry Bond's work in "Red Storm Rising" were so close to the real thing that intelligence agents for both countries initially believed that they had a security leak, but that in reality it was primarily conjecture and derived from information readily available in the public library at the time. (For the purpose of this example assume that the previous premise is true.) What if the government had classified "The Hunt for Red October"? That is what many people are concerned about; that if they work with the government or even study issues related to the government and security issues they may have they work classified even though the information it is based on remains in the public domain.

    I agree that U.S. TTP's or current operations shouldn't be revealed. I don't think there is any value in hiding doctrinal manuals behind the AKO Electron Curtain, but it doesn't give me nearly as much heart burn. But plenty of people seem to believe that while two wrongs don't make a right, enough UNCLASS data compiled together can make a SECRET document, and that just strikes me as crazy.
    The waiter's response was, "Stop screaming and waving it about by its tail. Everyone else will want one."


    A serious consideration is neither to confirm nor deny. Someone like a Tom Clancy may produce a document that contains stuff that, had it been published by an arm of the DoD would have been classified at some level fron Confidential up to TS Burn Before Reading. That does not matter. What does matter is the reaction of those "in the know" to such a book.

    In cases like this it is better just to note to oneself that the horse left the barn but not worry about shutting the door. Shutting the door is a dead give away that something bad just occurred.
    Vir prudens non contra ventum mingit
    The greatest educational dogma is also its greatest fallacy: the belief that what must be learned can necessarily be taught. Sydney J. Harris

  2. #42
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    Default Technology to the rescue

    In your scenario, the saving grace is that once something is out you really can't get it back. So, in this internet era, even if all cpies of Hun were pulled it would still be available on the internet. I expect there would be multiple You Tube videos of Clancy reading it.

    Cheers

    JohnT

  3. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    But plenty of people seem to believe that while two wrongs don't make a right, enough UNCLASS data compiled together can make a SECRET document, and that just strikes me as crazy.
    From the root classification authority, here is what may be classified:

    Information shall not be considered for classification unless it concerns:

    (a) military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

    (b) foreign government information;

    (c) intelligence activities (including special activities), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology;

    (d) foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources;

    (e) scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security, which includes defense against transnational terrorism;

    (f) United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities;

    (g) vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security, which includes defense against transnational terrorism; or

    (h) weapons of mass destruction.
    On aggregate unclassified information becoming classified, the EO says this:

    Compilations of items of information that are individually unclassified may be classified if the compiled information reveals an additional association or relationship that: (1) meets the standards for classification under this order; and (2) is not otherwise revealed in the individual items of information. As used in this order, "compilation" means an aggregation of pre-existing unclassified items of information.
    On the other hand, it also says this:

    Basic scientific research information not clearly related to the national security shall not be classified.
    This has traditionally applied mainly to the technical sciences (ex. laser or aerodynamic research), but perhaps one solution is to make it clear the social sciences are included in that provision.

    I have some more to say on the subject, but am heading out for lunch - MTF.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    But plenty of people seem to believe that while two wrongs don't make a right, enough UNCLASS data compiled together can make a SECRET document, and that just strikes me as crazy.
    It depends very much on who is doing it, for whom. Obviously, a private citizen pulling together an analysis from unclassified material and OSINT doesn't justify the subsequent classification of that material. If they are a former government employee it doesn't either, unless perhaps their open source analysis reveals awareness of something very sensitive (through its framing or assumptions) that they were exposed to in classified form before.

    If open source collection and analysis is done in official capacity, or under contract, it is a very different thing--even if the material is open source, the fact that the government is interested in having it compiled, the conclusions that were drawn, the apparent purposes to which it might be put, and the political/foreign policy implications of disclosure might all be enormously sensitive.

    I've often had contract work based on OSINT classified, and for good reason.

  5. #45
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Strange question: I had a clearance in 1984 for activities in the Marines. Just simple Secret I believe. Could that be used to "muzzle" my research circa 2008? On totally unrelated materials? I doubt it but I don't have a security officer to ask.
    Sam Liles
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Strange question: I had a clearance in 1984 for activities in the Marines. Just simple Secret I believe. Could that be used to "muzzle" my research circa 2008? On totally unrelated materials? I doubt it but I don't have a security officer to ask.
    No idea about the States, Sam.... Sorry. My own clearance is older than that and could still be used for some things today, but that's Canada .
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
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    Default Sam, I wouldn't worry about it.

    Nobody is keeping track of you for clearance purposes. You report to no one.
    So, write what you want and publish it. No problem. As I said before, as a Reservist with all sorts of TS accesses, I never had to seek clearance for anything I wrote when not on active duty.

    We really shouldn't make to much of the hypothetical possibilities since the reality is that once the horse is out of the barn...

    (Reminds me of the stallion living about a mile away who came to visit my mare - after escaping - while she was in heat about a month ago...)

    Cheers

    JohnT

  8. #48
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Strange question: I had a clearance in 1984 for activities in the Marines. Just simple Secret I believe. Could that be used to "muzzle" my research circa 2008? On totally unrelated materials? I doubt it but I don't have a security officer to ask.
    Sam

    Not to worry. As a DIA and DHS employee I did the standard non-disclosure agreement before training and going to Africa in 94. I had a TS-SCI and maintained that to include renewing it as I retired in 96.

    In 2000, when I decided to write my memoirs. I started asking what I had to do as a retired officer in clearing what I was writing, I was civil service by then and only carrying a secret clearance. The Army basically said write as a retired officer and use common sense. DIA said leave us alone. Actually the same office that handles FOIA handles this sort of thing. I asked for my reports from 1994-1996 at the same time I raised clearing my manuscript. I gave up on clearing when the action officer told me "to send it if you want to." I have yet to get a single report released, most of which were merely confidential.

    The exception to this is the CIA; folks who work for them and then publish get a publishing lawyer. Otherwise things move at glacial speed.

    I think you can relax on your '84 secret clearance.

    best

    Tom

  9. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by selil View Post
    Strange question: I had a clearance in 1984 for activities in the Marines. Just simple Secret I believe. Could that be used to "muzzle" my research circa 2008? On totally unrelated materials? I doubt it but I don't have a security officer to ask.
    Concur with the others. Also, from my understanding based on what I see with cadet clearances and those of our cadre, they lapse after a set period of time. And once they lapse, they're more or less gone.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
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  10. #50
    i pwnd ur ooda loop selil's Avatar
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    Pretty much what I figured. An email the other day came across my desk that talked about having work classified at secret or above. So, I decided to go to my mentor group and ask about clearances in academia. Pretty much the same as I'd been led to believe. I could do a lot of work, a promotion committee would never see it, and that would be sad. Not as career ending since I have tenure, but not good for the next step. The other piece is that they have done dissertations (I'm a student and faculty) that were classified or had that kind of information. They produced redacted versions for publication. That though was a anecdote the veracity can't be checked unless we knew which one it was.
    Sam Liles
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    The scholarship of teaching and learning results in equal hatred from latte leftists and cappuccino conservatives.
    All opinions are mine and may or may not reflect those of my employer depending on the chance it might affect funding, politics, or the setting of the sun. As such these are my opinions you can get your own.

  11. #51
    Council Member Abu Suleyman's Avatar
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    Default I am hearing two different responses to this thread

    Half of the people seem to be saying "Go ahead and publish, you will be fine, a clearance is not a hinderance." That is what I originally believed upon entering in to this discussion.

    The other half, seem to be saying "The research you do may need to be classified depending on what you uncover, even if you use totally unclassified materials as your source." I can understand that if I get on wikipedia and figure out how to make a nuclear bomb, I should not publish it. (I would argue that it would be unethical to do so, anyway.) However, other than things that would directly endanger peoples lives, if the information is out there, it is better to let the light shine on it, and talk about how to deal with it than to try and hide it and hope it goes away.

    My assertion is that the confusion that exists here is the actual problem. Because people are unsure as to what is legal and proper, they become reluctant to deal with potentially sensitive topics. Non-spooky types don't want to talk about it, and spooky types don't want to talk to the non-spooks. This is most unfortunate, because the most important topics to direct our full efforts against are the sensitive ones.

    The solution, I feel is to clarify and publicize the requirements to remove the misunderstanding, miscalculation, and confusion about this topic. However, I am unsure as to where begin, although I liked where Entropy started to go with his comments.
    Audentes adiuvat fortuna
    "Abu Suleyman"

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    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Suleyman View Post
    The other half, seem to be saying "The research you do may need to be classified depending on what you uncover, even if you use totally unclassified materials as your source."
    I think comments to this effect were only directed to those cases where the research was done for government (as an employee or contractor), not in cases where the social scientist previously or currently holds clearances, but is undertaking regular academic research.

    I can only reiterate what John has said--I've never had a problem with it, nor have I known anyone else to.

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    Ok, back after my 18 hour lunch!

    Seriously, though, EO lays out pretty clearly what can and cannot be classified. Without actually knowing what you're researching, it's hard for me to make a judgment on the potential that certain work might be classified, though I think the vast majority of social science work is probably safe. It will also depend on who you work for. If it's the government, then the chances of classification are higher simply because the government is what it is.

    If someone does want to try to classify your work, there are procedures to fight that and ultimately they must identify what information is classified or makes the work classified and why. If it turns out their reasons are sound or your protest is unsuccessful, often you can amend the content without changing the character of what's being said to solve the problem, or the information can be placed in a classified annex (My wife, for example, did her master's thesis on an area of nuclear forensics and part of it was classified and put into an annex).

    I think Rex has it right. The key is that the work has to be related to one of the areas the EO lists in my previous comment for it to be classified.
    Last edited by Entropy; 07-11-2008 at 02:19 PM.

  14. #54
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    Default As a practical matter

    1. If you work for the government (employee or contractor), your work could - possibly, not probalbly if sources unclas - be classified.
    2. If you are an academic without government affiliation, you can make sure that the horse is out of the barn long before anyone could ever catch it.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    1. If you work for the government (employee or contractor), your work could - possibly, not probalbly if sources unclas - be classified.
    2. If you are an academic without government affiliation, you can make sure that the horse is out of the barn long before anyone could ever catch it.

    Cheers

    JohnT
    But if the Men in Black show up, don't look at the camera...

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