The past week brought up a very strange personal quandary. I live with a roommate and not very long ago we had to evict a roommate for, among other things, not paying bills, stealing and lying. Obviously the cost of housing being what it is we have been in the market for a new roommate. Having just been burned rather badly we decided to leave it for a month and recover.
Last week my roommate brought a close friend of a close friend over to make some beer. He is looking for a place at the beginning of next month. Sounds perfect. He is trustworthy and has a good job.
He works for the NSA.
So I am thinking to myself, “Hmm. How do I explain this to my friends online? Wait! How do I explain this to myself?”
So I say to my roommate, “Uh, have you explained to this guy my views on the NSA? Does he know how I feel about Bush? Did you tell him about June Revolution?”
My roommate explains to me that he needs someone he can trust to live here. Can’t blame him for that. But what about his Security Clearance? Will he lose his job?
I ask my roommate if he knows that after his friend quits he will be followed 24/7 for two years? Standard operating procedure. (Don’t ask me how I know, if I told you I would have to kill myself.)
Back up a few years.
In the late 1980’s I lived near Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland. I had two roommates who lived there plus a landlord who lived there and later my cousin who is an entirely different story.
One of the two roommates was a civilian who’s job was to figure out how to protect US soldiers from Chemical Weapons. The conclusion, as far as I can figure out is that it can’t be done. The suits are too hot and uncomfortable to be of any real use in an unsuspected attack and combat conditions do not lend themselves to adequate shower facilities in the heat of battle. The thing that really weirded me out about him was the inordinate amount of hours a week he spent studying the Weather Channel. Nice guy though.
The other guy was a nice guy too. I think he was a Lieutenant but I never thought of him as a military guy. He was involved in computer security and he worked for Military Intelligence. Neither one of them talked to me about their jobs and frankly I was not curious.
Because of my politics I talked to the guy in Military Intelligence about how exactly his superiors would look upon us living in the same house. His response was to ask me if I had ever advocated the violent overthrow of the United States Government. If you have been reading this blog by now you know the answer is an emphatic, “No!”
That settled the matter and that was that. We got along as roommates get along and everything was normal. No problem for him or his job and no problem for me to be able to speak about my opinions.
Back to the past few days. I told my roommate to talk to our friend from the NSA about my beliefs and this blog, etc. and the guy said he would ask about living with me with his boss.
To be honest I am thinking to myself, “This guy’s Security Clearance is going to be revoked if he moves in here. I am going to get very paranoid if this guy moves in here.”
And on and on. The possible complications could make for an entirely humorous or entirely bad situation comedy, depending on the budget for the writers.
A few moments ago I got the word. The NSA is worried I might get arrested, possibly for protesting at the NSA (I had no idea) and they do not want him to move in.
So I breathe a sigh of relief and go on with my life and hope our next prospective roommate is not an insurance salesman.
Since I am in the mood to talk a little bit about my personal history I will take a look back at the first Gulf War or what was so sensitively referred to as “Desert Storm.”
I was opposed to this war (surprise, surprise) and the group I worked with in DC did a series of daily actions where people who came from our group and people who came from all over the country would go through the tour line at the White House and refuse to leave. Most would kneel down and pray. The non religious among us would lock arms or hold hands with the rest and await arrest.
We would be arrested for Unlawful Entry. In DC the second half of the Unlawful Entry Statute is “Failure to Quit.” This means that if the owner or the lawful representative of the owner asks you to leave and you refuse you can be arrested and charged with Unlawful Entry. In the case of the White House the lawful representative is the Secret Service. The maximum fine I forget. The maximum sentence is six months.
Six months is an interesting sentence. If you get a six month sentence there is no possibility for parole. You will serve the entire six months. At six months and a day you become eligible after a third of your sentence is served to get out on parole.
Now the Secret Service may sound like a very scary outfit if you are about to go into the White House and get arrested for refusing to leave. I expect if you were to attempt any violence at the White House or the Treasury Department (which is who they work for) that may very well be the case. If, on the other hand, you are arrested by them while protesting you will be arrested by the best most professional people in uniform you could ask for.
This makes it very hard to dislike them. I don’t.
On the particular day that I was arrested there were only two of us and we wanted to get as close to the front fence as we could before we sat down and refused to leave. We got just a little too close. Having been arrested numerous times in the White House since my first arrest in 1975 and since we had been doing this for several days they knew why I was there and were walking with us through the tour. When we sat down in the driveway they merely picked us up and deposited us on the sidewalk outside the grounds. At this point if we were arrested on the sidewalk for doing something illegal or in the street we would be arrested by the Metropolitan Police. If we went across the street and got arrested in Lafayette Park we would be arrested by the Park Police (Federal.)
Well, Troy (my partner in crime) and I had our hearts set on the Secret Service because they were guarding the White House and there was this guy in there who had set his sights on Iraq and the Metropolitan Police guarded the District of Columbia and as far as I could tell the Mayor, though an ass, had no intention of invading anyone and neither did Smokey the Bear so we left the Park Police out of it as well.
The sidewalk and the street was DC property. But the driveway was White House property. So we sat down in the driveway blocking the Northeast gate.
They picked us up and put us on the sidewalk. We sat back down in the driveway again. They removed us. We returned. (We were stubborn. So were they.)
This went on a few more times and finally they gave in, warned us one last time to move and arrested us. Mission Accomplished and not one life lost. In fact, once placed under arrest I have never been dragged away (I know of a police officer who hurt his back dragging a protester away.) I go with dignity and pride.
We were placed in the back of a Uniformed Secret Service Car which looked like a regular police car except with a lot of gold filigree and of course a Secret Service Seal and taken to a Metropolitan Police Station for processing. The Secret Service does not have one of its own, at least not for lowly protesters.
Troy and I had filled out a questionnaire the night before answering all the questions we would be asked at the police station so the process would go faster. Our group had a lot of experience.
So here we are handcuffed to the chairs we are sitting in next to these two desks with these Secret Service Agents who have to do all this paper work and trust me, it is the last place they want to be. My officer looks at all this paper work in front of him and sighs, “This is my first arrest.”
“Well it is not mine!” I cried and whipped out this piece of paper with the answer to every question on the forms in front of him.
He was delighted.
Troy of course did the same for his officer and they went through the paperwork very quickly. They chatted with us and got to like us. So much so that they did not want us to have to spend the night in jail before seeing a judge. They went and talked to somebody about offering us a bail option.
They came back and said, “If you post a bail of $50 each you can get out until your arraignment.” We declined, explaining that we ran a shelter as volunteers and had no money and that we did not believe in posting bail for what we did, but thank you.
They looked very worried and went away for a while.
When they finally came back they told us that they had arranged to have us released on Personal Recognizance, meaning that if we promised to return for arraignment we would be taken at our word.
The next day we returned to the White House. The day before our group of about forty people were the only ones there protesting. Today there were a couple of thousand. (Not our fault.) Troy and I were standing next to the fence and our two arresting Officers walked down the lawn with big smiles on their faces and asked us if we were going to be arrested again. We shook hands with them and told them it was not our turn.
The next thing I know all the protestors are moving away from us.
I am sitting here wondering, what would have happened if someone from the NSA had ended up being my roommate. How would I be perceived? The stress would probably kill me just from wondering how he ended up here in the first place.
I guess we will never know.