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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

How well do you know someone?

Watching the vetting process for the new presidential cabinet you heard politicians and others vouching for the nominees.  They would qualify their knowledge of the person’s background by stating how long they’ve known the person, “I’ve known this person for five years.” Really? Five whole years?

There is the possibility that you can really get to know someone in a short span of time. But it is highly unlikely, especially if you’re not with the person 24/7. There have been incidents of husbands and wives, who have been married for more than a decade, not knowing of the others “secret” life. So how can you vouch for a person, you have known for five years, and periodically interact with? If your “friend” is forty and you’ve known them for five, or even ten years, that seems like an eternity. However, they’ve had twenty-two years of adulthood before you ever met them.

Then you have the now cliché neighbor of a crime suspect, “[He’s] always been a good neighbor. Quiet. Never bothered anyone.” Chances are the neighbor is basing their assessment on fact. They never really knew the suspect so, of course, they were quiet and never bothered anyone.
If a background investigator has ever contacted you regarding an investigation for a security clearance how well you know someone can become shockingly evident. People obtaining security clearances fill out a questionnaire, part of which includes references. These references have to be non-work, friends and neighbors. Sometimes you have no idea why your name was used. You hardly know the person. But sometimes the investigation is for someone you’ve “known” for ten or more years (Most backgrounds require the reference to be a person you’ve known for five or more). But you don’t hang out with them, you don’t interact socially, you lose touch. But here is your name as a reference. The investigator starts asking the standard questions and you realize that although you’ve known this person since college, you cannot provide one piece of information that can verify anything about the person’s proclivity for cheese or espionage.

So to stand before a congressional committee and state that, “I’ve known this person for five years and they have absolutely the best character”, is little bit of a stretch.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to character association: 

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