Classification In-Jokes

by Alex Wellerstein, published March 16th, 2012

One of the really noticeable difference between the Boston and DC areas are the advertisements on their public transportation systems. In Boston, the majority of the ads were either for getting another educational degree, or asking if you wanted to be a paid participant in various medical/clinical studies. When you're already in that town to get a lofty educational degree, you're sometimes tempted by the idea of getting paid to not sleep for a week. Or maybe it would just be more of the same? Har har! Grad school jokes!

In DC, a huge number of the ads are for lobbying purposes — most of which invoke horrible consequences that will befall children, jobs, Israel, and/or the entire United States should Congress or the President not do something that somebody wants them to do. It's unclear to me whether this sort of advertising works, or, at least, what it means to "work" in these circumstances. Surely the wheels of government are so well-greased by money that mere subway ads can't have too much of an effect on how the representatives vote? And we all know nobody in DC is going to write in to their elected representatives, on account of the fact that we don't have any. (None who can vote, anyway.)

My favorite series of ads, though, are basically only comprehensible for people with connections to the world of security clearances. I think people in most parts of the country might assume that a web site with a name like "Clearance Jobs" might mean "jobs that are available wholesale" (not so bad) or "jobs at a significant markdown" (hmm) or maybe even "jobs that are two seasons old and thus nobody wants" (not so good).

Out here, of course, it means "jobs for people with security clearances."

This site has advertised a lot over the past few months with variously cryptic slogans. Here's my favorite one, snapped at the Navy Yard Metro station a few weeks ago:

Real Analysts Do It In a SCIF

A SCIF is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility. You know in the spy movies when they go into the special room that is completely cut off from the outside world, guaranteed un-bugged, where the really sensitive stuff is discussed? Well, it's sort of like that, but like most things associated with secrecy, they're probably a lot less exciting than they sound.

If you don't know what a SCIF is, you probably aren't attracted to the job. If you do know what a SCIF is, you're either feeling smug about your knowledge of the in-joke, or a little disturbed by the idea of analysts "doing it" on top of a classified laptop. Or maybe it's just me.

The truth is, of course, that Smart Analysts Do It in a Cone of Silence. Har, har! I'll be here all week, folks!

Update: I happened to be on a train with another one of these on my way home today:

How Was Your Day? Oh, I (redacted)

Har har! Get it? His or her job is classified so they speak in big redacted passages. Well, there you go. (Sorry for the blurriness — moving train+bad lighting+poor cell-phone camera.)

2 Responses to “Classification In-Jokes”

  1. Randy says:

    Here’s a bunch of pictures of different ads: