When you sign certain pieces of paper during your Navy career, you don’t realize the impact they will have on the rest of your life. For most of us who served in the military or even the intelligence or law enforcement agencies, when you leave either by resigning or retiring, your clearance to access ends unless you go to work for a defense contractor in a billet that requires a clearance.

Depending on the level of your clearance, the restriction can continue for years. If you have had a Top Secret clearance, as I did with access to special intelligence that required code word access, then the restrictions and limitations on what you can say and write become stricter. When granted access to code word or special programs, the document itself is classified and depending on the level, how long it is in force varies. The rub is that they don’t give you copies because the documents, once they are signed and executed are themselves classified!

So, here I am, almost twenty years since I retired and I still worry about it. For retirees, the review program for fiction manuscripts, according to the official Navy instruction, is voluntary. Technically, I don’t have to ask the Navy to review a manuscript. However, if I do not, and there is something in that is still classified or considered sensitive, then I have left myself open to legal action which could be either civil, criminal or both.

The penalties could be time in jail, fines, loss of my pension and/or other ugly outcomes. Most legal actions are economic in nature, i.e. the party with the most economics wins. The Federal government can hire more lawyers and investigators than I can so why take the risk?

The review process is relatively simple. Send a hard copy of the manuscript to the Navy and they have someone review it. It normally takes about 45 – 60 days and in the end, you get a note back saying that is has been blessed.

Right now, RENDER HARMLESS is being reviewed by the Navy. I don’t expect that they will require any changes, but one never knows. If there are, then I’ll make the necessary changes. Once I get the Navy’s approval, then I am free to get it published.

Marc Liebman