Alan, Neil and I have been placed on archive duties, it’s not anything we’ve done, it’s just that someone has to draw the short straw and this time it’s us.This is infinitely more tedious than it sounds due to the fact that Alan and Neil are trying to improve the system. You know, the system that has worked perfectly well since…forever.
For the last half hour they’ve been debating the best method of cataloging the thousand upon thousands of photographs, video files and paper records in store. It’s all irrelevant really, all our sister agencies would have to agree and sign off on any new system, which would be a task in itself. I wouldn’t mind, it’s just that they do this every time they’re on archive duty together !
Dealing with archives is dealing with unbelievable levels of bureaucracy. To begin with we have all had to re-undergo security clearance. Each level of clearance involves an increasing level of intrusion into your personal life, but it’s not like anyone forced us to do this for a living.
Baseline personal security standard (BPSS) that gets you through the front door of any security service building. Just the front door, maybe across the foyer, if you’re lucky.
Next is Counter-terrorist checking (CTC) and Enhanced baseline standard (EBS) these check for extremist affiliations and or openness to espionage persuasion. You need these if you want access to materials classified as secret. Although your access will be supervised and recorded.
For unsupervised visits to buildings and or classified documents you’ll need the innocuously sounding Security check (SC). Everything up until this point has been an appetiser.
Virtually everyone working here has had to have this. They don’t ask questions, they just sit there and tell you about your life. Your friends, family, favourite colour and flavour of ice cream, every aspect of everything you do. If the words “browser history’ have popped into your head, the answers yes. GCHQ are frighteningly efficient.
After that there’s Developed vetting (DV). This is for the stuff that the Prime Minster can’t be trusted with. The problem is they are elected every four years, in power one day, unemployed the next. Do you really want Oxford misfits wandering around with that kind of knowledge ?
The head of service, his chief’s of staff, and their respective head of sections all have had developed vetting….and one other, Alan. Alan was instrumental in the development of the vetting algorithm, so technically he’s a state secret.
Walking into the vault, we announce ourselves to the new archivist. Alan casually swipes himself into a document box.
“I’ll just up date my file while I am here. Change of address.”
The archivist looks extremely nervous; the words security breech flash across his mind. He presses the under desk button which immediately places the whole building on lock down. Three floors above us, every door leading to the outside world shuts and locks. He relaxes a little safe in the knowledge that as we speak, an armed response team has been dispatched to this location.
“Your file ?” The question is laden with smug ‘I know something you don’t’ tones.
“yep…i am…..er… a …secret…can’t even go on holiday without an escort.”
Four of worlds elite special forces burst into the room with guns drawn, quickly forming a protective circle around Alan.
I know the rest of us are insignificant but there’s no need to rub it in!
“Everything alright Alan ?”
“Er …yeah…. Just updating…. stuff”
The troopers holster their weapons and stone-face the archivist before giving him a smile, the sort that gives you that cold feeling you get before bad things happen.
“Oh…before we go Alan……where are we taking you on holiday this year?”
“Nice, .………….a word Mr archivist if you please.”