For many Federal employees and contractors, a security clearance is a vital part of the job. It’s no secret that security clearances are valuable and can be revoked. Although most people are not in the high profile positions of individuals like John Brennan, who recently had his security clearance revoked, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of the potential pitfalls in security clearance investigation. Without a security clearance, opportunities for certain top positions are completely out of reach.
Whether you are applying for a security clearance for the first time or about to undergo a periodic re-investigation of your clearance, it is important to be familiar with the red flags investigators are looking for. If you identify any potential causes for concern in your application- remember to use mitigating factors to lessen the potential damage.
Do you have any of these “red flags” in your application?
The following list outlines the 13 factors which investigators will consider when deciding whether to grant you a security clearance:
Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States
Involvement with a terrorist organization or other organizations working to overthrow the government
Guideline B: Foreign influence
Association with foreign citizens, business dealings with foreign countries
Guideline C: Foreign preference
Preference arising from former or dual citizenship with another country
Guideline D: Sexual behavior
Sexual behavior that is criminal, arises from addition, or shows a lack of judgment
Guideline E: Personal conduct
Being uncooperative with investigation process, associating with known criminals, unfavorable reports from people close to applicant
Guideline F: Financial considerations
History of debt, dishonest financial dealings, unexplained wealth
Guideline G: Alcohol consumption
Problematic relationship with alcohol, especially when it leads to impairment at work
Guideline H: Drug involvement
Using illegal drugs, impairment at work due to drug use
Guideline I: Emotional, mental, and personality disorders
Patterns of risky or aggressive behavior, refusal to comply with treatment programs
Guideline J: Criminal conduct
Allegations or admissions of crimes, criminal charges or convictions
Guideline K: Security violations
Negligent or intentional disclosure of classified information
Guideline L: Outside activities
Any service, whether work or volunteer, which may cause an applicant to be influenced by a foreign government
Guideline M: Misuse of information technology systems
Illegal or unauthorized access to a computer system or engaging in unauthorized actions on a computer system
Got Red Flags? Mitigate them!
Luckily, the federal government has provided guidance to investigators on the mitigating factors they should consider when encountering the above red flags. Apply the below five mitigating factors to your case:
- Age and Maturity at the Time of the Activity
Is the allegation of misconduct from your college or young adult years? Explain that you have matured greatly since that time. It is well known that teens and young adults lack the brain development to properly assess risk in the the way that more mature adults can.
2. Frequency of the Conduct
Was this a one-time occurrence? A bad mistake that will never happen again? Point out that the conduct only occurred one time, that you learned from your mistake and you have moved on.
3. Steps you Took to Address the Issue
Did you fully address the conduct? For example- have you fully participated in a rehab program for former drug and alcohol issues? Are you continuing to abstain from illegal substances and participating in therapy or support groups? If you are in debt- do you have a manageable repayment plan and can you show that you are sticking to your monthly payments? Show the serious steps you have already taken to address the concern.
4. Nature and Seriousness of the Conduct
Not all conduct is equal in nature. Does your debt come from school loans or a mortgage, rather than from gambling? Does your criminal record arise from possession of drugs, rather than selling or distribution? Point out these important differences.
5. Circumstances out of your Control
Not everything in your past is your fault. Are you a person who had to work your way through college and didn’t have a lot of extra support from your parents? This may lead to having higher debt. Do you have a history of trauma or abuse, which may help to explain some of your past behavior or current emotional state? Being open about circumstances which were out of your control may help to explain why the behavior occurred.
Remember: Your Behavior during the Investigation Matters!
Importantly, your behavior during the investigation also becomes a factor for consideration. Were you forthcoming with information about your red flags? Did you take immediate steps to address concerns that were raised? Did you seek professional guidance concerning your situation? Being prepared to take proactive steps to address concerns raised while maintaining a positive attitude might be exactly what you need to gain that clearance.
Call a Professional for Help
Need some help navigating these issues? Whether you are just thinking about applying for a security clearance for the first time or you are confronting new red flags during a periodic reinvestigation, don’t go it alone. The competent attorneys at Dhali PLLC are here to help. Click here to schedule your free phone consultation today.