Monday, 9 September 2013
Paranoid in Carlsbad
Those “Intell” alums can be a pretty cautious bunch, especially when it comes to matters of security. And the culture they have helped create in Carlsbad – similar to that of other industries with security concerns – has a way of making even the steadiest soul feel a little paranoid.
Consider, for example, the Callaway Golf Co. receptionist who cheerfully insisted I sign a “Non-Disclosure and Facility Admission Agreement” after I walked into one of the company’s buildings during an October visit. I resisted, largely because it seemed the document would prohibit a person from ever writing or saying anything about what he saw there. And I didn’t see how a journalist could consent to something that would prevent him from doing his job. Besides, I work for a well-respected golf publication and have never tried to overthrow a Third World country or sneak trade secrets out of a company lab.
But the receptionist refused to give in. I had no choice but to sign (if I wanted to make my meeting on time), although I assumed that whatever I would write about Callaway from then on would violate the agreement. The only question left to ponder now: Where will I serve out my time?
The second person I met was the “manager of investigations,” a former Army Intelligence officer who said he used to “catch spies.” Nice guy, but I still felt a little nervous sitting next to someone who once collared KGB agents for a living and probably knew dozens of ways to make them talk.
Then at the end of my afternoon, I got to enter the new, super-secret building from which Callaway will market and manufacture its line of golf balls. And as I was being escorted to the office of president Chuck Yash, I couldn’t help imagining what would happen if I suddenly bolted to some forbidden sector down the hall. Would I be “neutralized” by Dr. No-type drones clad in brightly-colored jumpsuits? Would I die in a hail of machine-gun fire like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape? Was all this security stuff making me a little nuts?
The answer to the last question was probably yes. I tried to flush those ideas from my mind, but as soon as I walked out of the building, I saw a helicopter hovering overhead. And I instantly started to wonder: Who is up there, and what do they want?
See what just a few hours in Carlsbad did to me?