The Security Clearance Paperwork

No matter which country you live in, if you are to work for the government in any public services that requires you to handle sensitive information, you’ll need to be checked in some ways.

Aside from your skills, they want to know who you are; where you are coming from; what kind of people you have in your entourage; what’s you credit status or intimate relationships, any records of any kind.

The more sensitive the information you are handling, higher are the stakes. This justifies the depth of scrutiny the government is going to ask you to be accountable for.

Basically, all they want to know is: Are you loyal enough that you can be entrusted with secrets? If you owe money to a 100 banks or your brother is part of an organized crime syndicate. You are not trustworthy. This is to cover stuff like potential blackmail or whatever creative mind could use you for. Cheating on your wife; they want to know.

Mind you, didn’t prevent Hansen or Manning or just recently Snowden from leaking information.

Anyway, someone handling tax returns doesn’t go thru the same process as the guy carrying the nuke’s launching codes.

The way it goes is that there is security levels, in which you are to be cleared, in order to access information, systems or areas for you to do your job. These levels of sensitivity are pre-established following an evaluation of the risks, but it’s not relevant at the moment.

All I knew back then is that I needed to account for 10 years of my life.


I don’t know for you but 10 years was quite some work. I had to compile everything:

10 years of addresses where I lived. What was I doing? Was I working? If so where and for how long? Was I attending school? You see the picture. No blanks. It needs to be a continuous stream of where were you?

I had to read the reference book to know what to do in case there are not enough lines provided in the forms. This is how serious it is. 

Remembering the exact month of particular events is no easy task. I started to cross check with my mom. Was it in 97 or in 98 that we moved there?

They were to investigate my family and my girlfriend’s family. I dreaded something like that would be asked. Not that I doubt the loyalty of both families, but I would have to explain to them why I needed this information and what I was to be doing with it. I would have to reveal my intention to go work abroad for a defense contractor.

Not abroad like, Paris abroad; Sarajevo, abroad.

A city in a war torn country. Damn. That is not close to the lavish Caribbean abroad I was daydreaming about.

Just the idea of telling them was horrifying in some ways. But hey I wanted to be James Bond right. One must not be afraid of stupid things like that.

So, I just threw it. “I’ve received an offer to work abroad.” Pause. My mom carried on with the salad whilst my dad was reaching for the bottle of red. “It’s a defense contract”. Pause. Nothing seemed to be a problem just yet. My dad was spinning the corkscrew firmly into the bottle. So I added “It’s in Sarajevo.” Stares and glares. I could tell the air was thicker all the sudden. My mom asked: ”What job?” So I went on with the story minus the “I want to be James Bond” part.

At that point I had made my mind. I knew that moving abroad on this contract was my next step. It made complete sense to me. My dad was against, my mom was holding up, but didn’t want to prevent me in any ways.

Collecting the information was a bit odd to my family. What’s the name of your boss, Social Security Numbers and the likes?

All and all it took me about 2 month of my spare time to collect and organize all of the information that I needed to account for. I was a bit negligent with some other stuff also renewing my driver’s license pictures took a bit of time. My birth certificate was too old and it wasn’t accepted no more. So I needed that too. Then it struck me.

At the time I didn’t travel much so that part was easy to clear out in terms of filing the details. Nevertheless, I had to have a passport. I can’t just travel to Europe without it. I never needed to travel anywhere before. Cross border Canada/US didn’t require passport for a long time and that was really the only travel I did and it was a long time ago. All we had to do back then was to provide I.D.

Now that all was done, sealed and sent. All I could do was to wait. Few months later I was asked by the agency to provide them with my fingerprints. Which was a bit of a challenge. I turned up at the local police station and candidly asked I need my fingerprints taken. You should have seen the police officer’s face. He thought I was joking. I said I’m serious. I need it. The agency asked me to provided them with my prints. What I’m I supposed to do? Have them do it he added. I thought fair enough.

The agency doesn’t have an office in every city as they pretend it to be in the movies. I was lucky enough to have one near by and drove up there. The person qualified to collect the prints was in office only at a specific time two days a week.

I planned it ahead and skipped class to have it done. Being there in the lobby waiting for my turn was out of this world. I was the only one in the room having his prints taken for a legitimate reason that is not link with criminal activities.

That situation made me wonder about my motive. After all Will Smith was also a good guy in “Enemy of the State".

It took 5 more months before I got cleared and 2 weeks later I flew out to Bosnia.


JF Bouchard