When you read about the recent hack of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), in which China is thought to have filched millions of security clearance application forms, you might have shrugged your shoulders. Just another hack, right? No big deal, right? Wrong. This cyberburglary is an even greater intelligence catastrophe than the Edward Snowden affair. And our negligent leaders, bureaucracies and their contractors need to be held responsible.
When I applied for my security clearance in 2010, as I was preparing to work with the U.S. Army in Afghanistan as a social scientist, I filled out a long form called an SF-86. Practically everyone with a federal government security clearance knows this document. It takes a lot of time to complete and requires in-depth disclosures of a very personal nature. My SF-86 contains my Social Security number, information about my credit history, my job history (including a dispute with a past employer), contact information for my closest friends and family in the United States and abroad, all non-Americans with whom I am close, a list of every foreign official I ever met, every place I lived and people who could verify that I lived there, and much more. If I had ever been arrested or had any history of drug abuse, I would have had to report that, too.