Self-Reporting Security Clearance Issues

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

Our law firm represents security clearance holders in security clearance investigations
and appeals. We also represent individuals that need to determine how and what to report involving new security concerns. One of the frequently misunderstood issues is a security clearance holder’s continuing duty to report on themselves for newly arising security concerns. In other words, self-reporting usually involves reporting a security incident in between the 5-10 year period for re-investigation. Federal agencies are slowly moving towards a system of continuous evaluation for clearance holders, but there is still a major duty for a clearance holder to self-report significant security concerns that arise between investigations. This can pose a problem where a person is essentially told to report on themselves. It causes many conflicts for clients.

Duty

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Security Clearance Issues Regarding Personal Conduct

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

Guideline E of the Adjudicative Guidelines, located in Security Agent Executive Directive 4, is one of the most commonly used guidelines by the government for denying security clearance applications, renewals or upgrades. This guideline covers general misconduct. This article discusses Guideline E Personal Conduct cases in more detail.

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Financial Security Concerns for Clearance Holders

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

Financial considerations security concerns are the most common issues which can result in the inability to obtain or the loss of a security clearance. As a result, it is very important that when a clearance applicant or holder runs into financial issues that they have counsel to assist and advise them with respect to the security clearance process.  In security clearance cases, financial issues are generally referred to as Guideline F cases. In Guideline F cases,  the government’s concern is generally focused on how a person has handled his or her finances and/or his or her vulnerability to financial manipulation given a pattern of overspending or debt.

The criteria in Guideline F cases has somewhat changed over the last year with the introduction of Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD 4) (the new Adjudicative Guidelines governing security clearances).  This article discusses some potential tips for those facing financial concern issues in the context of a security clearance matter.

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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.

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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:

 

Financial Concerns For Security Clearance Holders

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

One of the most often raised issues in security clearance cases involves the issue of financial concerns for a federal employee or government contractor.  The majority of security clearance cases, by far, involve this issue.  This type of security clearance case falls under Guideline F, Financial Considerations of the new June 2017 Adjudicative Guidelines contained in Security Executive Agent Directive 4.   Guideline F is the section of the Adjudicative Guidelines which involve financial considerations and provides the basis to evaluate their impact on an individual’s ability to maintain a security clearance.

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