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Girl Security wants to teach the basics of national security, encourage careers in the field

Tanzania Heard and Emily Baase review a series of titles printed on slips of paper. The task of the 17-year-olds: to determine which ones are real.

The two are among 30 girls, all students at Argo Community High School in Summit, who are participating in a national security skills program that aims to recruit more women into the field.

“Is Kale about to have an identity crisis?” Tanzania asks, as she reads a title, purportedly from National Public Radio.

The article mentions how cultures can be selected to accentuate or modify certain characteristics.

Baase nods.

“We basically invented bananas,” she said, referring to the domestication of this fruit.

She places it in the ‘True’ stack with aplomb.

It was the last day of last week’s four-day program, with speakers from various government agencies. This exercise focused on misinformation; other topics included artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

Seventy girls applied for the 30 places in the program; those selected received a $250 stipend to attend.

The program was organized by Girl Security, a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing girls to potential national security careers.

Founder Lauren Bean Buitta said it was vital that girls, as well as non-binary young people, get involved so that in matters where lives are at stake, all members of society are represented in order to take the lead. best decision.

The 42-year-old former national security policy analyst started Girl Security in 2016 because she wanted to help the next generation of analysts overcome barriers they had faced, including gender discrimination, in a field dominated by men.

Buitta grew up in Worth and chose Summit High School for the program because her sister, who is also on the board of Girl Security, is a social worker at the school.

Jorhena Thomas, a lecturer at Georgetown University and former FBI intelligence analyst, leads the girls at Argo Community High School through a misinformation exercise on the last day of the four-day Girls Safety Program.

Student Justine Madgett said working in national security had never crossed her mind until she took part in the program last year.

Organizers say the 2021 schedule has been “watered down”, with most of the talks on Zoom, but that piqued Madgett’s interest enough to return – this time, bringing her twin sister, Jada.

At one point, the students split into teams for a cybersecurity drill. The scenario: The United States is the target of a ransomware attack. The teams had to determine the source of the attack and decide whether or not to pay the ransom.

The hypothesis of Justine and the crew? It was not the Russians, but a terrorist group framing Russians.

Whoops.

“We were completely wrong,” Justine laughed. Turns out it was the Russians.

“You really have to think outside the box, but it was so much fun coming to this conclusion all together. It was like putting a puzzle together.”

Jada was in a different group. They correctly guessed it was the Russians, although they overestimated the severity of the attack.

The girls also heard about FBI agent Jeff Fields, who talked about growing up in New York and then spending a decade in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

For Justine, who grew up in Summit, it was “breathtaking” to think of places so far away.

Fields is Black and, like Buitta, emphasized to the girls how important it is to have diverse voices on the pitch.

“Everything that makes you unique is your superpower,” he told the girls.

Baase, whose mother is black, asked if the agent had ever paid the price for expressing that belief at work.

He said yes, but that he, Girl Security and others on the ground were working to change that.

“Don’t be afraid to rely on your networks. You have a great one here,” he said, looking at both the students and the people at Girl Security.

Wrapping up the misinformation exercise at the end of the day, Georgetown lecturer and former FBI analyst Jorhena Thomas told the class to “prepare to be shocked.” She leads the group through a conspiracy theory quiz and pauses before revealing which claim is true.

To date, the group has separated a lot of the wheat of good faith from the chaff of misinformation – for example, making a story listed on Snopes.com, a fact-checking site, about Ohio replacing the injection lethal by “head-ripping” machines was wrong.

“How is that more human? asked senior Jen DeBlecourt coolly.

But almost everyone missed this one: The US government actually secretly administered LSD to Americans in an effort to develop mind control technology.

As the girls looked at each other in shock, Thomas smiled.

“Good critical thinking,” she said.

Michael Loria is a reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times via Report for Americaa non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the South and West Sides.

Georgetown University lecturer and former FBI intelligence analyst Jorhena Thomas speaks to students at Argo Community High School.

In a disinformation exercise led by Georgetown University professor and former FBI intelligence analyst Jorhena Thomas, students at Argo Community High School had to decide whether the United States had really secretly administered LSD to certain citizens.

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