Background Check, Please

Light Unto The Nations
Light Unto The Nations
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Originally published on January 31, 1997

And the second phase of literary hiccups...

Yesterday over the telephone, I was drilled by an investigator doing a background check on Bob Blumstein who is some government clearance for a new job he is seeking. I imagine I did a decent enough job deflecting with humor the questions I felt uncomfortable answering for fear my take on truth would hamper Bob's ambitions. The one corner I got backed into concerned Bob's emotional status. I had no choice but to mention his diagnosis and bouts with chronic fatigue syndrome and the medication. I did not mention prozac by name, and the investigator was surprisingly soft on followup in this area. A few one liners I tossed around included:

Question: something along the lines of does Mr. Blumstein strike you as a solid neighbor, easily getting along with others...

GT response: "Well, we've disagreed on things every now and then, but from your own investigative prospective, I don't know whether this reflects poorly on Bob, or me."

Question: something along the lines of has Mr. Blumstein shown any signs of possible emotional breakdown or instability...

GT response: "Well, as I am not a trained psychologist, I certainly am not qualified or comfortable answering such questions with any sort of authoritative voice..."

Question: something along the lines of do I think Mr. Blumstein would be a good security risk...

Answer: "Mmm, again I know nothing about governments clearances except that Bob has occasionally mentioned in passing, of course without specific detail, other accesses and clearances he has won over the years in his job as an Air Force reservist, and I suppose other job hurdles in the past..."

I was asked maybe 40 questions, some overlapping in theme, but only the direct medical liability question led me to a response that I felt could possibly be held against him, although at the end of the interview the investigator apprised me of the Privacy Act of 1983, and how Bob could request a detailed report on this interview and would discover that I had given him favorable marks. But yes, of course this is what the investigator would say to me, so I wonder how much damage my candor and my obvious deflections (as opposed to a drone-like apotheosis) might have done to his chances of winning his clearance, should all Bob's other cronies not play the rat's game.

Overall, I was articulate and calculating, punching through with wordplays and jokes as well as honestly suggesting that Bob is as straight a Joe as I've known. I counted on forthrightness as opposed to monotonic one word responses as a plus. Bob had given Sue the chore of this interview, but she never returned the phonecall after the interviewer came to the house leaving a note I found when checking the mail that day.

I must have slept in flu lethargy straight through the knocking. On the phone, the investigator, after asking for Sue soon turned his attentions to me, and offered a choice of phone or face to face interview. After acknowledging my sickness and joking if he could bear with me, I accepted the challenge, and relieved Sue. She was grateful, and I think Bob would be as well. I believe, despite the one problem area, I executed a more than adequate defense of Bob's integrity.

Question: Have you known Mr. Blumstein to indulge in illicit drugs at any time?

GT response: "Bob has stayed emphatically clear of this sort of indulgence."

Question: Have you known Mr. Blumstein to have a problem with alcohol?

GT response: "Bob is somewhat of a beer connaisseur. He brews his own beer as a devoted hobbyist, but I certainly would not characterize Bob as a problem drinker."

Question: something along the lines of do I think Mr. Blumstein is an honest man, a man of integrity...

GT response: "To tell you the truth sir, Bob is as honest a person as I know, his integrity impeccable. We joke and call ourselves the radical middle, a return to sanity.

And on and on...

Enjoy the rest of the Bracken as biographer commentary. And let me know what you know of these top secret drills. They certainly breed paranoia and intimately define the faith of friendship in terms I know I must address in "the ouster of Tim" affair, so catch ya later...

GT

© 1997 - 2013, Gabriel Thy. All rights reserved.

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