Prepare for the Pendulum Swing

I’m not going to belabor the tale of woe those trying to deal with Edward Snowden’s theft are dealing with right now. For a moment I want to opine on some of the secondary and tangential issues that I predict is going to make life in the IC more difficult because of his actions:

  1. Polygraphs. If it is true that he only took the job with BAH to gain access to specific data in order to reveal it, IC polygraph units are going to have to cancel leave through 2025. Moving from one agency to another? Get ready to get hooked up to the box (again). In a sys admin job? Pucker up. That old timer you used to get who realized that people were people and they had lives? He’s going to be replaced by a legion of whippersnappers who will all be gunning to catch the next leaker. Good people will be deep-sixed and those who survive will wonder if it’s worth the ***-pain.
  2. Investigations. When you can’t pick up on obvious problem-children, and when the bottom-line is more important than doing a good job, the bureaucracy will retrench and do what it does best: drop into low gear and distrust outsiders. There are only so many government investigators, and it’s not like there are fewer missions. Coverage will slip, tasks won’t get done, the risk of surprise (you know, what we’re supposed to try and avoid) goes up.
  3. Visits. Even in the information age some things are best discussed in person. Remember how your “community” badge would kinda-sorta get you into wherever you needed to go? Good luck with that for the foreseeable future. That three hour block of time you used to allocate to go to a meeting across town? You might as well write off the whole day.
  4. Two-Man Rule. Great theory; it will suck in practice. Remember when you used to be able to call the help desk and your boy Chuck would reset your password over the phone? Yeah, not any more. Something that took minutes will take hours; something that used to take hours will take days; things that took days will take weeks. In the information age, ostensibly the information enterprise, will work about as quickly and efficiently as a pre-assembly-line car factory.
  5. Sharing. Yes, the mechanisms will still exist, but no one actually will (officially). No one will say so out loud, but in a series of staff calls of decreasing seniority the word will get out: don’t post or share anything good or the least bit sensitive online. Stovepipes will be reinforced and what good was done over the past decade+ to break down barriers will get washed away. Sharing will go underground, which will simply make detecting leaks harder.

This story is far from over, but if you’ve been in this business for any length of time you know how wildly the pendulum swings when something bad happens. Nothing actually improves, everything just gets more difficult. This was less of a big deal during the industrial age, but that age has past.