Wednesday, 3 April 2019

The White House and Security Clearances

A lot of hype has come up over the past ten days over the handling of security clearances for the White House, and the normal security folks being 'out-ranked' to pass a clearance onto some folks, who weren't getting anywhere with the normal process.  So, some individuals are suggesting mismanagement, or White House blunders. 

Having been through the 'game' of security clearances in my life, an observation might be offered here.

At some point in the 1990s, the emphasis of the security clearance investigation business changed.  Where before, the big hype was relationships (with foreigners), travel (especially overseas), and your spouse's relatives.....the new hardline direction was your money-flow and explaining money-details (on top of the previous three I mentioned).

So I worked with this guy who'd been a contractor, and gotten stock with company 'X'.  At the conclusion of that employment situation, he left, and he sold the stock back to the company.  He made somewhere in the $75,000 range off that sale, and sent the check to the bank to deposit.  Two years pass, and it's time to do a 5-year renewal on his investigation (this being in the 1990s).  About four months into this renewal process.....the audit people come back.

They want to know about this one deposit at the bank.  Remembering it was not an issue.  They wanted to know the path....where did the money come from.  Well....this took an entire Saturday morning with his filing system, to find the old company 'slip' and the letter to explain the sale and profit.  Prior to this period?  No one would have ever noted the deposit, or had to do detail efforts to explain sources of income.

So I noticed over the next decade after that.....another guy, with two events that proved to be troublesome.  First, he'd inherited a property and held it for around fifteen years......then sold it (making in the range of $100k to $150k).  That deposit experience was split into two episodes (one was the downpayment and then the rest that came a month later).  Yes, the audit folks doing the renewal of the clearance wanted to know about that.

This guy spent a good long day looking over his records.  He finally found a will-statement to show how he acquired the property.  But this deposit business occurred four years prior to the audit, and it proved difficult to show on paper how it was related to that property.  They eventually believed enough of the story to let that go.

But he had this second inheritance episode to deal with (another relative).  This involved an odd collection of items that had in the range of $100k to $200k (coins, guns, etc).  The will in this case was real clear on the items.  One sentence simply said the 'coin collection' in a bank box.  Another sentence had 'gun collection in a basement room'.  The collection was split up and sold over a two-year period, and while there were sales statements, they weren't that clear. 

All of this made for a miserable experience with the audit folks, and added at least six weeks onto the experience. 

Looking at these White House folks....most having a business background, I suspect that the audit folks want clear statements on how property was acquired, and sold at such-and-such profit.  These folks really don't want a lot of knowledge on their private dealings to be written down or released to the public.  I can understand how the White House leadership views this clearance business in a different light.

Another problem which rarely gets brought up.....if you were a business man who'd traveled a good bit of the past five years (say sixty trips outside of the US), then putting together a listing, and who/what details would be intense (maybe taking 20 man-hours to get all the info for a sixty-trip form).  Why did you make four trips to London in April of 2014?  Who did you meet?  Did you develop a close personal relationship with any British citizens?  These type of questions just lead onto more questions. 

The end of this topic?  I doubt it. 

Getting Rid of the Electoral College

First, is it actually possible?  You'd have to write an amendment out, and get it passed via one of two methods: (1) Getting a two-thirds vote via BOTH the House and Senate or (2) getting the legislation passed by three-quarters of the state legislatures.  The odds of either agreeing and passing the end of the Electoral College?  Pretty much zero. The Democrats may have 235 members in the House, but way short on the two-thirds number required.  The odds that all 235 would agree to dump the Electoral College?  If you were a southern Democrat, you'd find some voters who question the value of this idea.

Second, lets say you got the vote and accomplished this.....dumping the Electoral College.  What really happens over the next three election cycles after that? 

My humble belief is that people would begin to realize that it's the population centers of five states (California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and New York) that matter.  So people in lesser states (like Oregon or Tennessee) would see reasons to skip voting.  It wouldn't matter if you were Republican or'd just see this as a wasted cause.  This in turn, would affect local and state offices. You could actually have a state election in Mississippi where only 35-percent of the registered voters showed up, and the bulk of the state's voters simply skipped the election.

Somewhere down the line....maybe in a dozen years, you'd find that maybe a quarter of the normal voters simply refused to participate, and the President's election was mostly considered a 'joke'.  Then, the most unlikely scenario would'd have a comedian who'd run as an independent, and shock both himself and the political winning. You can view this scenario underway in the Ukraine (yes, the comedian is actually considered a prime candidate to win now).

Opening up a bigger mess?  In the end, if we got to this termination of the Electoral College, it'd be brought back within twenty years, to resolve and fix things.