Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Security clearance: Discreetly secret

Discretion required
Administrative assistants in the Cuban Affairs Office in Washington, D.C., have many duties. They handle incoming phone calls and greet visitors. They keep the office director's schedule, make travel arrangements and prepare briefing books.
Their government security clearance is not "discreet."
It's "secret." (See job description).
Secrecy surrounds many of the U.S. government's democracy projects in Cuba, including ZunZuneo, the so-called Cuban Twitter.
Alan Gross
DAI, the contractor that hired Alan Gross to set up Internet hotspots in Cuba, maintained a "suite" inside its corporate headquarters in Bethesda, Md., where secret matters were discussed. But they evidently didn't let Gross inside the suite without an escort.

In November 2012, Gross sued DAI and the federal government, saying they failed to prepare him for risky and dangerous work in Cuba. A court document filed in his case stated:
Upon information and belief, Defendant United States provided DAI access to confidential information to enable DAI to perform these and other functions. Pursuant to the Prime Contract, in order to be considered for a classified task order like the one at issue here, DAI maintained a “Facility Clearance” at the “secret” level. Compl. ¶ 40 (citing Prime Contract at 37, 38). 
As with the Prime Contract, Defendant United States gave DAI access to classified information in connection with the Cuba Task Order. Under the Cuba Task Order, DAI’s performance was considered “classified” in accordance with USAID’s advanced directives, and was possible only due to the “secret” level security clearance DAI obtained pursuant to the Prime Contract. Compl. ¶ 46 (citing Task Order at C.2.M).
Alan Gross didn't have a secret security clearance for his Cuba work. He said in a statement:
I never was provided with any U.S. Government security clearance in connection with the ICT Project, and thus I never had independent access to this DAI suite or to any of the information in the possession of DAI and USAID about the Cuba Project, the ICT Project, or any potential risks. (See "Alan Gross tells all").
Jeremy Bigwood
Jeremy Bigwood has been fighting for more than a decade to force the U.S. Agency for International Development to open up its files on its programs in such countries as Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia. I interviewed Bigwood last year in Washington. (See "Fistful of dollars falls short").
Bigwood says ZunZuneo was a project of USAID's Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI, and Creative Associates International, or CAI.
In an article called "Why USAID's Cuban Twitter Program Was Secret," Bigwood wrote:
The high level of security clearance required to do business with OTI also indicates that the agency’s activities are secret. There are several levels of security clearances, ranging from “Controlled Unclassified,” “Public Trust Position,” “Confidential,” “Secret ,” “Top Secret,” and “Top Secret Compartmentalized.” In this case, even CAI personnel need “secret” level clearances for access to facilities or information. The fact that security clearances at the “secret” level are necessary appears to indicate a secret operation. (See document).
Phil Peters, creator of the Cuban Triangle blog, said such projects as ZunZuneo are regarded as "covert" under U.S. law. He wrote:
These were, in other words, “activities of the United States Government to influence political, economic, or military conditions abroad, where it is intended that the role of the United States government will not be apparent or acknowledged publicly.” That is “covert action” as defined in U.S. law (National Security Act of 1947).

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