Security Risk?

Recently I had an interesting series of emails with a former co-worker who had found this site. Hidden in our exchanges was a kernel about ID badges that made me remember my earliest days with the FAA. Time to flesh it out.

Among the processes initiated when one applies for a position as an air traffic controller is a security check. I'm sure some of it is routine and run for every government employee, but we actually did have some things we encountered which had security implications and in theory, at least, our access to areas in the building were dependant on that security clearance. I have no idea what our level was supposed to be and I’m under no illusions that it was NSA level “Top Secret”. In fact, I’m not even sure how many levels there are. I know Allen West (R-Idiot) thinks his as a Lt. Col. was higher than the President’s, but I’m also sure mine wasn’t.

Anyway, everyone entering the facility was given a colored badge to wear which indicated their level of access. If you had your clearance, you were issued a photo ID. If you were a visitor, you were issued a plain badge (green, I think) with the word “Visitor—Escort Required” boldly displayed on it. Now as I reflect on it, I think the Visitor badge may have been pink or yellow. The reason I’m reflecting is I wore one for the better part of or even more than a year.

As the story eventually unfolded, some ball had gotten dropped in my screening. No, there weren’t any pot busts, DUIs, or suspicious border crossings. Hey, even though I was in Florida before the revolution, I didn’t even have any suspect foreign associations. I think it was some sort of paperwork falling through the cracks thing.

In any event, I went through Flight Data School (even mustered out and mustered back in due to an attempted Selective Service rendition), checked out on Flight Data, checked out on the A-Side, might even have started D-School without a picture ID—every day clipping on that green (or yellow or pink) Visitor badge whilst I went about my duties all the while collecting sensitive knowledge. It eventually became something of a joke as more and more people got to know me and eventually the majority of the complement in the building knew who I was and that I belonged there.

Finally—and I don’t remember what my limits must have been—I grew sick of not having a picture ID and pounded on some desks somewhere. In those days, one of our departments in each facility was called the Military Liason and Security Office. I probably started there. I have $1000 that says it took more than one trip, but eventually everything was cleared up and I got my photo ID.

Perhaps it’s not too hard to imagine that after a while I adopted the attitude that “everyone who needs to know who I am, does” and I treated the display of my photo ID with contempt for a number of years.

I wonder what the post 9/11 workforce has to deal with coming to work—card swipes, retinal scans, cavity searches? I'll bet there isn’t anyone walking around the facility, unescorted, for over a year with nothing but a Visitor badge.

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Last updated: 07 October 2011