There is an article [Link] on Techie Buzz this morning about Richard Feynman being suspected by the FBI as a Communist/Communist sympathizer. It is written with a sort of moral indignation tone but I have to acknowledge I have no surprise at this. It is in the nature of security folks.
First of all, we have to consider the nature of security folks. They occupy a position of white stuff in oreos. If they are too diligent in pursuing what they consider to be risks, then they get squashed by management as preventing productivity. This is not unfounded. I was once told that the ideal government office environment, so far as the security folks were concerned, were people who sat at empty desks all day, in the dark, never doing anything other than metabolizing but also never going to the toilet. Yes, no work whatsoever.
I asked the security officer who told me this what they wanted for off-duty hours and I was given a shocked look and told that in the ideal world, no one would ever leave the office. Translated into practical terms, everyone except security folks should be locked in prison, preferably solitary confinement, for life.
To balance, I should also comment that when the security folks didn’t catch something or someone, they were the ones who got blamed. Not anyone who didn’t report the suspicious behavior. Not anyone who was shoddy in safeguarding information or property. But the security guys. So their vigor was justified.
Now let’s revisit the Feynman thing for a minute. There is a quote, from which I have abstracted
“This man is, in my opinion, an extremely complex and dangerous person, and a very dangerous person to have in a position of public trust, particularly a position that so vitally affects the safety and welfare of this nation”
and lets focus on the “complex” part. There are basically three types of people that the security folks “like”: those they can scare; those they can blackmail; and those who toady to them. These folks are suspect, but they enjoy the lowest level of suspicion. No one is not suspect, including security folks.
Beyond this, there is a correlation of level of suspicion with complexity. The more you deviate from what the security guys think is the social norm, the more suspicious you are. This hits Feynman on many azimuths. He is not married (widowed), has no children, and has girlfriends. He is educated too much – has a college degree, is a scientist, and actually thinks about something other than sports, sex, and debt. He plays the bongos, and is Jewish. The list keeps going.
The less stupid you are, the more suspicious you are. No one is supposed to be smarter than the stupidest security guy. No one is supposed to do anything creative, except maybe stamp collecting or woodworking. No one is supposed to read anything other than local newspapers and national magazines. No MAD.
No one is supposed to act in a strange fashion. No one is supposed to have any out of the ordinary knowledge. No one is supposed to not be a bog.
By definition STEMs, nerds, geeks, atheists, minority religionists, gays, anything not ordinary and common, is suspicious.
But remember, most securit guys don’t hate everyone. They just suspect them of treason and sabotage and espionage.