Many responsible for security or counterintelligence in support of classified defense programs grapple with a common mystery: while involved in specialized, closely guarded efforts, they lack a holistic view of the secret program’s purpose. This lack of understanding poses challenges, as security and counterintelligence methods vary significantly even within the realm of classified projects. Consequently, the assumption that standardized security practices apply universally to multi-million dollar classified defense contracts is fundamentally flawed.

the Counterintelligence Working Group: A Collaborative Endeavor

One defense-heavy government facility came up with the Counterintelligence Working Group (CIWG). This title served to explain what city-wide intelligence and police investigators did when they gathered to brief, and be briefed, by cleared program personnel. This group knew it had a tough mission. Most of their city’s aeronautic and missile defense efforts were classified, requiring constant coordination among government, private, and semi-private organizations. This required knowing about each other; being generally aware of who does what. That is, the various security missions which supported a cleared project needed to be generally understood by all, the better to protect a program. In turn, a properly cleared, need-to-know briefing on the project itself would be presented to the supporting agencies. To learn about numerous projects like this, quarterly meetings were set up.

Building Cohesion

The group was organized formally. A charter was written. The only stipulation for any leadership position was recognition of the FBI’s chairmanship. The FBI has lead authority for counterespionage and counterterrorism in the United States, thus logically also for the working group. All the member organizations were identified. Government(s), police, defense, military, and private company security and investigative agencies were included. Later, post 9/11, Homeland Security and Customs even had a position in the group.  If necessary, Treasury, Secret Service, even maritime agencies might be invited. For each meeting, a theme was listed. A speaker from one or another classified program could present a classified (or even unclassified) briefing on what his team was working on for the investigators and analysts. They would have a chance to listen, understand, and ask any question that came to mind. Of course, need to know, clearances, and lines of authority were closely adhered to. The location of the working group’s meeting might vary. The only requirement was that the room was cleared up to the classification spoken about, and that a formal means of passing clearances was implemented. Generally, such meetings took place in a SCIF or similar room.

Fostering Security and Collaboration

Speakers could be drawn from any project in the city. The guest speaker would explain the number of people at work on his project, how they were organized, and the line and block chart which would explain who did what. The lines of authority in the organization would be explained, showing who was in charge, directorate chiefs, and detachment heads. Outsiders, the investigators hearing these presentations, are normally awe-struck by the complexity of most organizations. Specialization is paramount in modern organizations, and thus getting to a technical expert is often like a search through the depths of darkest bureaucratic- land. More than once an investigator thanked a cleared contractor for guiding him or her through the maze of offices and cubicles to get to the right person. Why this is important, to be able to access the right person, should be immediately evident. If an investigation is ongoing, the last thing any investigator wants is a plethora of people knowing about it. A direct line to the person desired is essential, the easier to set up a meeting away from the comings and goings of his office. The caller can then set up a meeting at a secure location elsewhere. Another benefit of such presentations is that the speaker becomes the first line of contact for the investigator on a future case involving that organization. He can direct questions appropriately, to their Public Affairs Officer, the company security specialists, or the department personnel themselves.

The speaker can be requested ahead of time to provide certain answers to previously agreed upon questions. Examples might be these. How many foreign workers are in your plant?  What is the number of overseas flights your employees take for business or pleasure? Do you have organized pre-travel briefings? How many cleared personnel do you have, and where are they located in your company? What sort of supply chain do you have to deliver the parts required to construct your cleared product? Where are the designs kept, and under what controls are they?  As you can well imagine, the list is endless, but can be informative to help gauge where the company is in light of what services the Working Group has to offer. After the presentation, arrangements can be made to provide security briefings as required or as appropriate. Now, with a basic understanding of the company’s classified mission, a reasonable attempt can be made to fashion a tailored security program for them.

As is essential, leave plenty of time for questions and answers for all involved. That alone will establish good liaison, camaraderie, and good future working conditions.

Related News

John William Davis was commissioned an artillery officer and served as a counterintelligence officer and linguist. Thereafter he was counterintelligence officer for Space and Missile Defense Command, instructing the threat portion of the Department of the Army's Operations Security Course. Upon retirement, he wrote of his experiences in Rainy Street Stories.