Security Clearance Lawyer John Berry Interviewed by Wolf Blitzer

Security clearance lawyer John V. Berry, Esq. was interviewed by CNN with respect to security clearance issues being faced by the President’s Staff Secretary on February 8, 2017 by Wolf Blitzer.

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The interview focused on the ability of the White House to permit uncleared individuals to maintain interim security clearance despite serious issues pending.

Security Clearance Tips for Employees

By John V. Berry, Esq.,www.berrylegal.com

Many federal employees and government contractors are required to apply for and maintain security clearances as part of their continued employment. In some cases, the security clearance application process can be straightforward. However, if security clearance problems arise, they are typically discovered when the employee or contractor is about to complete his or her security clearance application through e-QIP or the government’s Standard Form 86. Because of this, if it is possible, a security clearance applicant or holder should seek the advice of an experienced lawyer who handles security clearance matters since each case is different. The following article contains some some tips for employees to consider in the security clearance process. Continue reading

Federal Employment and Security Clearance Issues

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

There is a direction connection between federal employment and the holding of a security clearance. Specifically, the ability to obtain or keep a security clearance, for certain federal employees can be very important with respect to holding onto their federal employment. If a federal employee is required to have access to classified information in the course of their duties, then they must be eligible for a security clearance. In the course of federal employment, problems often arise when a previously cleared federal employee later runs into security clearance issues or when a new federal employee has trouble obtaining a security clearance. When these types of problems arise, it is very important to retain a federal security clearance lawyer as soon as possible.

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Federal Employment and Security Clearance Issues

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

For federal employees, the ability to obtain or maintain a security clearance, for certain positions can be critical with respect to maintaining their federal employment. If a federal employee is required to have access to classified information, then they must be eligible for a security clearance in order to keep their position. This article discusses the connection between security clearance and those employed by the federal government.

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DOHA Clearance Hearings Explained

By John V. Berry, www.berrylegal.com

If you are a federal employee or government contractor whose security clearance is under review and you are in the process of having your case heard before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), there are a number of considerations that should be made before you move forward to the hearing phase.

Before DOHA, an applicant or re-applicant for a security clearance should be well prepared, in advance, to present their case at the hearing. It is often the case that individuals come unprepared for a DOHA hearing and walk away feeling less than confident about the outcome. Having legal counsel represent you in this forum is highly advised.  Below are some considerations that our law firm takes into account when representing federal employees and federal contractors as they approach the hearing stage at DOHA before an administrative judge.

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7 Clearance Investigation Tips

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

Many federal employees and government contractors are required to apply for and maintain security clearances. In some cases, the security clearance application process is straightforward. However, if problems arise or potential issues develop, they are typically discovered when the employee or government contractor is about to complete his or her security clearance application through e-QIP or the government’s Standard Form 86. If possible, you should seek the advice of an experienced attorney who handles security clearance matters since each case is different. The following are some general guidelines.

     1. Take time and answer security clearance forms carefully

This is one of the most important tips. Individuals often receive clearance denials because they did not adequately read the questions asked or proofread their responses on the e-QIP/SF-86 application prior to submission. In some cases, if an individual does not take the time to read the question and answers “No,” when they should have answered “Yes,” to a question, a clearance investigator might conclude that the individual was attempting to be dishonest. This is important to understand as such an oversight can be very detrimental to obtaining or keeping a security clearance. Therefore, it is very important to carefully complete the security clearance application before submitting it.

   2. Be honest during the application and investigation process

This recommendation cannot be overstated. Individuals should be honest in all aspects of the clearance process. When an individual is dishonest during the clearance process, it could not only potentially bar the individual from receiving a security clearance, which would remain on his or her clearance record, but it could also raise a host of other legal issues, including potential criminal issues.

It is much easier for a security clearance attorney to mitigate security clearance concerns involving financial, psychological, prior drug or alcohol usage issues than defend against an allegation involving truthfulness in the clearance application or interview process. An applicant should consult with a security clearance attorney for legal advice if there are any possible criminal disclosures or issues. Depending on the factual circumstances involved, we may advise that it is better to wait to apply later for a clearance rather than go through the process right now.

   3. Review documents in advance

Take the necessary time to gather and review relevant documents related to any potential security clearance problem in advance. Taking this step will help an individual in two ways: (a) it will help an individual remember all the details of the potential security concern, such as an arrest or bankruptcy filing that occurred three years ago, in preparation for answering questions; and (b) the documentation may help to mitigate the security concerns later, if necessary.

   4. Prepare for the investigative interview

If an individual believes that there is a good chance that problem areas exist in a security clearance application, he or she should expect to be asked about these areas by the assigned investigator. The investigative interview can vary in duration from an hour to several hours depending on whether significant security concerns exist. Early preparation for the security clearance interview can help minimize any problem areas. Unfortunately, many individuals go into the interviews without thinking about or preparing for the issues that could arise and often provide incomplete information. Interview preparation can also help the individual’s confidence when meeting with the investigator to explain application responses that raise any security concerns.

   5. Don’t react defensively to security clearance questions

Refrain from reacting defensively when asked by an investigator about potential security concerns in a security clearance application. It is important to be calm and positive about the issues when speaking to an investigator. In addition, arguing with an investigator will never benefit an individual since the investigator can have significant influence over the application process in the initial stages.

   6. Be courteous and professional with the investigator

It is important for all applicants to treat the investigator with professionalism. If an investigator attempts to contact you, be timely and courteous in your response. Even if it is inconvenient to meet or return calls, not doing so could be detrimental. Promptly responding to the investigator can give the investigator a positive impression, especially if the investigator will be providing a recommendation regarding your ability to obtain or retain a clearance.

   7. Be patient during the security clearance process

It is very important to understand that the security clearance process can often take a several weeks to a few months to complete depending upon a number of factors, including: (a) whether the individual is a federal employee or government contractor; (b) the number or significance of the security concerns; (c) delays in obtaining responses from federal agencies in seeking an investigative file; (d) the general investigative backlog; and (e) the specific employer involved.  There are many other considerations that can also delay adjudication so it is important to remain patient during the investigation.

Conclusion

If you need assistance with a security clearance issue, please contact our office at 703-668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also like and visit us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

Alcohol Issues in Security Clearance Cases

By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com

Case Summaries Involving Guideline G Cases where Clearance Was Granted

Example A:  Security clearance applicant was 34 years old and had a history of alcohol-related incidents before being diagnosed with alcohol dependence in 2006. Following alcohol treatment in 2006, he abstained from alcohol consumption for 5 years before resuming infrequent use. The applicant was found to have recommitted himself to total abstinence, was found to attend Alcoholics Anonymous, and had a sponsor to help him work on alcohol issues. Applicant was found to have mitigated the security concerns under Guideline G, alcohol consumption and his security clearance was granted.  For the entire case, please click here.

Example B: Security clearance applicant was 54 years old and had 3 alcohol-related incidents from 1984 to 2000. Following that time period, he had abstained from alcohol use from 2001 to 2009, a period of about 8 years. Subsequently, he had resumed responsible alcohol use without any problems, consisting of 1-2 beers after work, but not daily. Further, there was no evidence of any alcohol-related incident for the past 15 years. The Administrative Judge found that the individual had provided sufficient evidence to mitigate the security concerns under Guideline G and granted the security clearance.  For the entire case, please click here.

Example C: Security clearance applicant was 45 years old and had issues with alcohol dependence over his life. Applicant was found to have taken seriously the fact that he was an alcoholic and had to completely abstain from alcohol. The individual also presented evidence that he regularly attended Alcoholics Anonymous and also that he had a strong support network. The Administrative Judge found that the applicant was earnest in his efforts at recovery and had mitigated the security concerns under Guideline G, alcohol consumption and granted the individual’s security clearance.  For the entire case, please click here.

Things to Consider for Alcohol Cases Under Guideline G

In security clearance cases involving Guideline G, Alcohol Consumption, it is very important to understand just how important it is to demonstrate that the individual understands and acknowledges (where appropriate) their alcohol issues and concerns.  Denying a known alcohol problem only makes mitigation more problematic. It cannot be overstated that security clearance adjudicators take alcohol concerns seriously. Absent significant evidence of rehabilitation or other efforts, it can be hard to keep or obtain a security clearance.

Here are 14 items (not a full list, which is too long to list here) that we often consider when handling Guideline G cases: