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news and resources for acquiring, maintaining, and retaining government-issued security clearances


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Inconsistency in Security Clearance Determinations

A new report by the Government Accountability Office says there are inconsistencies in security clearance determinations at the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security that the GAO says could lead to the compromise of national security information.

Security Director News summarized the report.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 18, 2012 at 04:50PM | Comments (0)

Renewed Focus on Legality of Polygraph Exams

The legality and usefulness of polygraph examinations in security clearance investigations again is in focus after a recent McClatchy news article revealing alleged polygraph-test abuses at the Department of Defense’s National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

Posted by The Editors on Jul 12, 2012 at 11:10AM | Comments (0)

Job-Seekers Advised to Avoid WikiLeaks

There is discussion that individuals seeking Federal jobs that require obtaining a security clearance ought to resist the temptation to access and read classified U.S. diplomatic cables disseminated by WikiLeaks.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 14, 2010 at 11:30AM | Comments (0)

Clearance Delayed Due to Foreign Preference Concerns

A blogger asks what s/he can do to expedite a U.S. military security clearance allegedly delayed due to concerns about foreign interest/foreign preference.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 13, 2010 at 03:32PM | Comments (0)

State: Clearances Safe From Mental Health Counseling

In a September 7 all-staff message, Secretary of State Clinton advised that employees who seek mental health counseling will not put their security clearances in jeopardy.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 13, 2010 at 03:21PM | Comments (0)

Impact of Bankruptcy on Acquiring Security Clearance

Someone who recently asked whether a bankruptcy would imperil his/her chances of acquiring a security clearance got two seemingly helpful replies.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 03, 2010 at 01:10AM | Comments (0)

Senate Bill Proposes New Reporting, Oversight Requirements

Two U.S. Senators reportedly have introduced a bill, the Security Clearance Modernization and Reporting Act of 2009. The Senators are chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on Government Management.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 07, 2009 at 11:23PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearances and Online Social Networking

In this interesting article from the November 2 Federal Times, an attorney examines the risks that participating in online social networking websites, like Facebook and Twitter, can have on the ability to acquire or retain a security clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 23, 2009 at 12:16AM | Comments (0)

Scenarios for Clearance Disqualification

Today, the Washington Post’s career counselor shared some insights on specific personal scenarios, including certain criminal and personal conduct, that might complicate acquiring a security clearance.

The counselor draws upon clearance adjudication outcomes posted to a Department of Defense (DoD) website, which highlights again the vast, seldom discussed, and unresolved disparity in security clearance transparency between federal agencies. DoD is the only federal agency to public disclose information on security clearance determinations brought before its Adjudications Board.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 14, 2009 at 12:16PM | Comments (1)

Teleworking Speeds Clearance Processing

By allowing investigators to work from home, the time necessary to process new security clearances has decreased from one year in 2001 to 37 days now, says Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry.

It reportedly now takes 72 days to process a new Top Secret clearance, though in some cases paperwork for initial TS clearances is incomplete. A Government Accountability Office official says quality security clearance processing can improve reciprocity — that is, one entity’s acceptance of another entity’s clearances.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 07, 2009 at 11:32PM | Comments (0)

CIA Clearance Investigator Pleads Guilty to Falsifying Reports

A CIA investigator has reportedly pleaded guilty to falsifying reports involving security clearances.

The writer attributes the incident to pressure to complete security clearance investigations more quickly. last reported on this issue here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:55PM | Comments (0)

Criminal Proceedings and Security Clearances

A lawyer comments on how criminal proceedings may impact a security clearance. He advises that a criminal or drug charge is seen as only one factor in a “whole person” analysis, “meaning the agency considers whether the entirety of your profile would qualify you for a clearance.”

The lawyer assumes, however, that all agencies adhere to the “whole person” concept when processing clearances, which may not be true.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:31PM | Comments (0)

Blogger Shares Insights on Clearance Adjudication Process

A blogger recently shared details about the processing of his or her security clearance, apparently at the Department of State.

The blogger says 80% of clearances in process end up going to an adjudicator for final determination, which the blogger was told can take 15-30 days.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:25PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearance Delays at State

An August 21 National Journal Online article discussed delays in processing security clearances for State Department interns.

The article also reported on alleged biases in security clearance determinations.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 30, 2009 at 11:17PM | Comments (0)

Arab-Americans Reassured on Security Clearances

At a White House meeting on July 23, Arab-American leaders, in a two-hour, high-level briefing spanning many sensitive issues, reportedly were reassured it would become easier for members of the Arab-American community to attain federal security clearances.

New details about security clearance procedures for intelligence agency hires were laid out, including lifting the automatic dismissal of applicants with dual nationality and or foreign relatives, allowing non-minority applicants to be tracked using ‘heritage’ options on application forms…and scholarships for national security majors at Wayne State University in Michigan.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 15, 2009 at 02:49PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearances Issued Despite Derogatory Info

Stars and Stripes reported in early June that, according to a Washington Times article, up to 25 percent of top-secret security clearances were issued despite there being “significant derogatory information” on the person. The claim reportedly was part of a May 2009 Government Accountability Office report.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 08, 2009 at 05:24PM | Comments (0)

Blog Discusses Clearance Complications

An August 2 blog entry on the Washington Post website discussing issues which can lead to security clearance complications, including financial debt, dual citizenship, and foreign employment.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 08, 2009 at 04:03PM | Comments (0)

Bias Against Jewish Americans Pursuing Clearances?

The Anti-Defamation League says it has received complaints from and offered assistance to Jewish Americans and others who have links to Israel and have had trouble getting security clearances, according to a July 30 article at the Jerusalem Post website. The ADL attributes the problem to “bigotry.”

The article further details allegations of a history of discrimination against Jewish Americans by U.S. Government counterintelligence agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Posted by The Editors on Aug 02, 2009 at 11:04AM | Comments (0)

Bad Credit and Security Clearance

A Washington Post blogger asks about her prospects of getting a security clearance despite having poor credit.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 01, 2009 at 10:17PM | Comments (0)

Owing Back Taxes Puts Clearance in Jeopardy

According to this blogger on the Washington Post website, a person who owes back taxes puts his or her security clearance in jeopardy.

…for those holding a security clearance in executive branch agencies and the military…owing back Federal income taxes in any amount can out your security clearance and put your job in jeopardy. Even DOD contractors can have their security clearance denied or revoked for owing back Federal income taxes.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 15, 2009 at 08:50PM | Comments (0)

New Hill Bill Pushes Clearance Accountability

U.S. Representative Anna Eshoo of California has introduced the Security Clearance Oversight and Accountability Act, H.R. 638, January 22, 2009.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 06, 2009 at 02:26PM | Comments (0)

Security Clearance Impacted by Mental Illness

Diagnosis or treatment for bipolar disorder can negatively impact one’s ability to acquire or maintain a security clearance, according to a clinical psychologist writing in The Capital (Annapolis, MD).

Read more here.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 25, 2008 at 04:28PM | Comments (0)

Renewing Old Military Clearances

A blogger writes about the prospects of renewing an expired military-issue security clearance and about the benefits to one’s career of having a clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 11, 2008 at 11:28PM | Comments (0)

Bringing Newly-Hired Personnel Aboard Quicker

To avoid newly-hired personnel from changing their minds about taking Federal jobs because of lengthy security clearance processing delays, some Federal agencies reportedly have created interim job centers where employees begin work without their full clearances.

While intelligence agencies still are blessed with tens of thousands of applications each year, the lengthy security clearance process associated with bringing in new hires is still a major obstacle. As a result, agencies have established interim job centers to allow employees awaiting security clearance to perform unclassified work until their background investigation is complete….

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2008 at 05:03PM | Comments (2)

Hill Bill Creates Security Clearance Ombudsman

The appointment by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) of an ombudsman to handle and report on complaints involving security clearance investigations is one improvement included in H.R. 5959, the Intelligence Authorization Act of 2009, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 16.

The bill now awaits passage of and reconciliation with its Senate companion, S. 2996.

Though creation of an ombudsman is an important positive development, the House bill would limit his or her jurisdiction only to matters involving applications for new clearances, and not include reinvestigations or readjudications of existing clearances or adverse actions taken against holders of current clearances. Additional procedural protections are needed for these individuals as well.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2008 at 05:40PM | Comments (0)

Poor Security Screening of Arab Americans?

According to a recent editorial in Investors Business Daily, sloppy Federal background investigations of Arab American employees have compromised security. As evidence, the editorial mentions several recent instances where Arab Americans were caught improperly accessing information or working for foreign agents.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 23, 2008 at 12:00AM | Comments (0)

Executive Order Designates Officials to Manage Clearance Reforms

The White House has issued a new Executive Order putting into place new officials and entities to better manage security clearance reform.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2008 at 01:57PM | Comments (0)

Guidance for Soldiers on Completing Clearance Application

In a recent story, a newspaper for Army service members advised when it is best to say “no” on the SF-86 federal security clearance application question regarding mental health counseling. The Department of Defense had recently amended its policy about issuing new or renewed clearances to service members known to have sought mental health counseling.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 30, 2008 at 03:55PM | Comments (0)

Moving, Mental Health Issues Affect Clearance

On this blog, a Marine Corps veteran asks whether frequent family relocations as a youngster or diagnosed mental disorders will negatively affect a security clearance application. Several responses are posted.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 23, 2008 at 09:24PM | Comments (0)

DUI a Likely Disqualifier for FBI Clearance

An FBI Agent and recruiter discusses security clearance hurdles in this recent article in the University of Nevada at Las Vegas student newspaper.

“A DUI when you’re 19 is going to take you out of the running,” the agent said.

Posted by The Editors on Jun 18, 2008 at 01:53PM | Comments (0)

Does a Lack of Friends Hurt One's Clearance Prospects?

In a recent blog, participants discussed whether lacking a large social network makes it more difficult for someone to acquire a security clearance.

Posted by The Editors on May 15, 2008 at 08:07PM | Comments (0)

Legal Training in Security Clearance Procedure

On January 10, the District of Columbia Bar offered its latest course on security clearance procedure, this time on clearance adjudication at the Department of Defense. Click here for the announcement.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 21, 2008 at 07:06PM | Comments (0)

Questions Probed in Security Clearance Investigation

This recent post on a web blog mentions two questions military investigators supposedly seek to answer when conducting a preliminary security clearance investigation — whether an individual has a “history of untrustworthiness” or “areas in their lives” that would render them susceptible to exploitation by a foreign spy.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 21, 2008 at 06:45PM | Comments (0)

Translator With Foreign Links Discusses Clearance

An East Asian national who has provided translation services to the U.S. President discusses (registration required) her work and ability to acquire security clearance despite her unique background.

…as a translator with national security clearance, Abbas has visited Prague, the White House, and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in just the past year….

born in East Turkistan, a formerly independent nation populated largely by people of the Uyghur ethnicity now governed by China… [Abbas] is now one of few speakers of the Uyghur language in the United States, and one of very few who possesses security clearance…

“I didn’t want to be in the middle of it,” Abbas said, “but [the U.S. military] told me I was the only qualified person who could get security clearance.”

Posted by The Editors on Oct 26, 2007 at 01:32PM | Comments (0)

Attorney Wins "Foreign Influence" Appeal

An attorney reportedly has persuaded a Department of Defense (DoD) administrative law judge not to deny security clearance to his client based upon suspected “foreign influence” grounds.

The Government was concerned that the Applicant “may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by any foreign interests.” The attorney submitted numerous character references and performance evaluations to DoD on his client’s behalf. The judge found that the information “alleviated any foreign influence concerns.”

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 01:14PM | Comments (0)

Top Law Firm Wins Clearance Appeal

Nixon Peabody says it won an appeal of a Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance denial for a client who is foreign-born. The firm says a DoD administrative judge determined it was “consistent with the national interest to approve” their client’s application for a new Secret-level clearance, which he required for work with a contractor.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:46PM | Comments (0)

New Law Protects Cleared Military Personnel from Debt

The Military Lending Act, which reportedly took effect October 1, protects military personnel who hold security clearances from losing those clearances as a result of taking on debt from high-interest loans. The law limits interest charged on such loans. first noted last June that military personnel who had accumulated too much debt were losing their clearances. Under Adjudication Guidelines, security clearance-granting authorities may question whether persons with unreasonable amounts of debt are more susceptible to bribes and more likely to compromise classified information, and may deny clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:06PM | Comments (0)

Drug Use Was No Barrier to Clearance at DOE

In statistics recently reported to Congress by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the Department acknowledged issuing thousands of security clearances despite indications of past drug use, including 95 where such use occurred within the last 12 months. Read more here. first reported on the story last April.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:57PM | Comments (0)

Contractor Expands Role in DHS Clearance Investigations

In October, the security firm Kroll announced it won a contract to expand its role in conducting security clearance investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Kroll already performs such a function for DHS’s Transportation Security Agency, where clearance processing is facing long delays, Customs and Border Protection, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Kroll’s exact role in security clearance processing was not specified. Outsourcing clearance investigations is part of efforts to expedite the clearance process. Other contractors have won similar DHS work.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:22PM | Comments (0)

Can Academic Dishonesty Jeopardize Receipt of a Security Clearance

A blogger recently asked whether a one-time act of academic dishonesty can jeopardize his receiving a security clearance. A posted response, in part, reveals possible pre-clearance procedures at the U.S. Secret Service.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 03, 2007 at 10:50PM | Comments (0)

Feds Turn to E-Mail to Speed Clearances

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reportedly will try electronic transfer as a means to speed security clearance processing. In a pilot program to begin before October 1, OPM will electronically submit completed investigations to the Army security office for adjudication. The measure is expected to cut up to two weeks off security clearance processing time, helping facilitate meeting deadlines set by Congress.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 22, 2007 at 08:42AM | Comments (0)

Gay Lawyer's Clearance Difficulties

An August 9 article in Newsday describes the difficulties which a gay attorney encountered while serving in federal and state offices requiring security clearance. Eventually, he was hired as a New York City attorney by then mayor Rudy Guiliani.

The article is also discussed on this blog.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 15, 2007 at 11:35AM | Comments (0)

FBI Loosens Policy on Drug Use

To ease the hiring of special agents and analysts to fill remaining job vacancies, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reportedly has amended its policies, for security clearance and polygraph purposes, relating to the use of marijuana.

The change may already or soon apply to other federal agencies as well.

The FBI is only the latest law enforcement agency to amend its policies on past marijuana use. Increasing numbers of departments are reporting problems with applicants being excluded over past pot-smoking, and [are] loosening their standards. Even the drug czar’s office understands…

“Increasingly, the goal for the screening of security clearance applicants is whether you are a current drug user, rather than whether you used in the past,” said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “It’s not whether you have smoked pot four times or 16 times 20 years ago. It’s about whether you smoked last week and lied about it.”

See also this USA Today report.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 05, 2007 at 07:33AM | Comments (1)

Small Cos. Shut Out of Cleared Work

A recent article in the Maryland Gazette discussed obstacles small construction and other companies face to winning government contracts requiring security clearances. The process of obtaining clearance is reviewed, including issues that might delay granting clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 01, 2007 at 08:37PM | Comments (0)

DIA Head: Adjudication Impedes Recruitment

In a recent interview published in Signal magazine, the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) says that adjudicating security clearances is a roadblock to effective recruitment but not one which cannot be overcome.

Posted by The Editors on May 30, 2007 at 09:27PM | Comments (1)

More on DOS Clearances and Mental Health

At today’s daily press briefing, a Department of State (DOS) spokesman again denied reports that employees stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan who seek mental health counseling put their security clearances at risk. He also corrected data announced earlier on the number of clearances currently in process of suspension or revocation. His figure, 40, however, is at variance with that of a watchdog group, which claims some 53 clearances are currently under review.

Posted by The Editors on May 08, 2007 at 05:45PM | Comments (0)

DOS Denies Clearances Suspended Due to Mental Illness

The Department of State (DOS) spokesman today denied allegations that the Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) has suspended the security clearances of persons serving in Iraq who voluntarily sought mental health counseling.

…I would find it personally hard to believe based on my understanding of the situation that there is any widespread effort to either suspend or revoke people’s security clearance, simply for reporting that they might or might not be having some kind of mental health issue associated with service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The group Concerned Foreign Service Officers says it “has seen numerous cases where even allegations of mental health issues…have been referred by [the Office of Medical Services] to DS, usually resulting in recommendations to revoke a clearance.”

Posted by The Editors on May 04, 2007 at 11:27PM | Comments (0)

NSC Staffer's Clearance Delayed Nearly One Year

A Georgetown University international relations professor hired by then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice waited nearly a year before being cleared to start work at the National Security Council, today’s Washington Post reports. The professor’s immediate family had extensive contacts with the South Korean government.

Posted by The Editors on May 01, 2007 at 04:54PM | Comments (0)

Pot, Polygraph, and Clearances

On this blog, a participant versed in polygraph administration ventures that inadvertent omission of marijuana use on a security clearance application, followed later by full disclosure, is insufficient to preclude granting clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 25, 2007 at 10:34PM | Comments (0)

Drug Use Issues Prompt Clearance Reforms at DOE

An internal Department of Energy (DOE) investigation, prompted by a recent case where a DOE employee with a drug problem was caught with classified material in her home, has identified nearly three dozen cases of clearances issued despite recent drug use. The DOE plans “sweeping changes…in the issuance of clearances,” according to a Time magazine report. Recent drug use will be cause for termination of a security clearance application.

The Danger Room blog also covered the story.

Posted by The Editors on Apr 21, 2007 at 11:32AM | Comments (0)

Some Advice for Security Clearance Applicants

A professor who is considering applying for a White House fellowship says he’s received advice on how best to complete his security clearance application paperwork: “thoroughly and honestly.”

Posted by The Editors on Apr 08, 2007 at 12:40PM | Comments (0)

OPM, Leading by Example, Expedites Clearances

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is responsible for processing the vast majority of security clearances for federal employees, says it is “leading by example” and completing clearance investigations and adjudications for its own employees in record time.

The following is a top-five ranking of agencies in fiscal year 2007, to date, showing the average number of days taken to adjudicate completed background investigations:

National Science Foundation: 15 days;
U.S. Office of Personnel Management : 18 days;
Department of Commerce: 19 days;
General Services Administration: 25 days;
(tie) Department of Health and Human Services: 39 days;
Department of Education: 39 days

Posted by The Editors on Mar 18, 2007 at 03:31PM | Comments (0)

OPM Begins Electronic Transmission of Completed Investigations

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), which is responsible for processing the vast majority of federal security clearances, has begun to electronically transmit completed investigation paperwork back to requesting agencies, which should alleviate delays in bringing aboard newly-cleared personnel. Read about it here.

Kathy Dillaman, associate director of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services Division, said OPM plans to offer the new service to every federal agency by the end of fiscal 2007.

The article also discusses ongoing Congressional oversight of reforms in security clearance procedures.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 28, 2007 at 11:33AM | Comments (0)

Blog Endorses Adjudication Hearings

Blog Lawyer carries a post urging persons holding Department of Defense clearances to take advantage of adjudicative hearings when those clearances are at risk of suspension or revocation. Persons who do so, the article argues, stand a better chance of retaining their clearance.

In all but the rarest of cases we strongly recommend that your case be decided through a hearing/appearance. For all practical purposes a security clearance decision is going to be won or lost at that hearing.

The article also traces an adjudication process:

…Central Adjudication Facility (CAF) issues a Letter of Intent (LOI); employee responds to LOI; CAF issues Letter of Denial/Revocation (LOD); employee appeals LOD; Administrative Judge issues recommendation; Personnel Security Appeals Board (PSAB) of CAF issues final decision.

Confidential clearances are said to last 15 years; Secret, 10 years, and TS, or Top Secret, five years, before a Periodic Reinvestigation, or PR, is triggered.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 14, 2007 at 12:23AM | Comments (0)

Army Misconduct, Inactive Clearances, and Employability

Postings to this military jobs blog discuss potential difficulties one might have applying for jobs requiring clearance if that person has a record of army misconduct or an inactive clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Feb 04, 2007 at 12:11AM | Comments (0)

Estimation of Time to Obtain DIA Clearance

A recent news report of plans by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) to hire 1,000 new employees mentions that obtaining the necessary clearance could take between two weeks and a year, depending on foreign travel and contacts and clearances previously held.

Posted by The Editors on Jan 31, 2007 at 08:47PM | Comments (1)

Israelis Relinquish Citizenship to Obtain US Clearance

According to an Israeli Interior Ministry official, some Israelis who recently requested to relinquish their citizenship did so in order to obtain jobs requiring security clearance in the U.S. Congress, military, or White House.

In 2006, 775 Israelis asked to relinquish their Israeli citizenship, a slight drop in comparison to 2005, when 808 Israelis chose to forego their citizenship…

According to the Interior Ministry, applicants usually choose to relinquish their Israeli citizenship in order to be granted citizenship in the country where they currently live, or due to their desire to receive security clearance in their place of work….

Posted by The Editors on Dec 29, 2006 at 11:41AM | Comments (0)

New Adjudicator Training Aims to Promote Reciprocity

A policy committee of the National Security Council has released a “program of instruction” intended to encourage security clearance reciprocity – that is, mutual recognition of security clearances issued by Intelligence Community components – by standardizing adjudicator training.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 21, 2006 at 02:50PM | Comments (0)

DoD Contractor Charged With Lying During Clearance Upgrade

A Department of Defense contractor has been charged with lying after investigators determined she had suspicious business contacts which she allegedly failed to disclose in interviews and papers connected to a security clearance upgrade.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 09, 2006 at 05:34PM | Comments (0)

Personality Disorders Factor in Granting Clearance

Court proceedings into espionage charges brought against a Navy officer have touched upon personality disorders and other characteristics that may give reason to question one’s ability to receive and maintain security clearance.

A Navy psychiatrist testified Tuesday that a petty officer who pleaded guilty to passing classified information…to an unidentified foreign country does not suffer from a psychiatric disorder, although he has exhibited some traits of narcissistic personality disorder, including unrealistic assessments of his talents and intelligence.

Posted by The Editors on Dec 07, 2006 at 04:50PM | Comments (0)

New DoD Guidelines Clarify Foreign Preference Considerations

McKenna, Long, and Aldridge, a Washington, DC law firm, has posted a synopsis of September 2006 revised Department of Defense Guidelines governing adjudication of security clearances.

It writes that the revisions provide increased guidance on the Guideline’s disqualifying and mitigating conditions for determining security clearance eligibility and, in particular, clarify and soften the criteria for evalutating foreign preference and influence.

Among the law firm’s findings:

  • The revised Guidelines follow “a significant increase in the number of negative initial determinations for applicants with foreign backgrounds;”
  • Disqualifications due to holding of foreign passports have been eased;
  • Disqualifications due to foreign contacts have also been eased;
  • DoD adjudicators should consider in their decisions “the identity of the country in which the foreign contact” is located and that country’s reputation for espionage or terrorism.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 11:05AM | Comments (0)

Revised DoD Clearance Guidelines May Provide Some Relief

Contract Management, in its October 2006 edition, summarized key elements of revised Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance adjudication guidelines. The new guidelines appear to provide some relief for clearance applicants concerned that the “whole person” approach is not employed in adjudication decisions.

Posted by The Editors on Nov 10, 2006 at 10:31AM | Comments (0)

GAO Cites Shortcomings in OPM and DoD Clearance Processing

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has released a new report (highlights here) citing delays and quality concerns in security clearance processing at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and Department of Defense (DoD).

Read news coverage on the GAO report here, here, and here. Readers may also find more information on the GAO report in a November 2 Defense Daily article.

US Representative Tom Davis (R-VA), a vocal advocate of security clearance reform, issued a press release on the GAO report. The release is also referenced here.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 30, 2006 at 02:13PM | Comments (0)

New DHS Personnel Database Accessible to Clearance Adjudicators

Providing an illuminating example of the breadth and depth of information accessible to security clearance adjudicators, a new DHS database created to better manage personnel actions will be accessible to adjudicators upon request.

The MaxHR ePerformance Management System will…be used to set and communicate performance expectations; monitor performance and provide feedback; develop performance goals; complete the appraisal process; address poor performance and reward good performance; and produce performance-related reports…

…all or a portion of the records or information contained in this system may be disclosed outside DHS as a routine use as follows…

…To a Federal, state, tribal, local or foreign government agency
or professional licensing authority in response to its request, in
connection with…the issuance of a security clearance, the reporting of an investigation of an employee…

Read more in today’s Federal Register

Posted by The Editors on Oct 28, 2006 at 10:25AM | Comments (0)

Intel Community May Ease Foreign Links Limits

Ron Sanders, chief human resources officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), says that, to faciliate recruitment of qualified and clearance-eligible intelligence professionals, it may be necessary to ease clearance restrictions for those with foreign links.

Intelligence leaders are also looking at loosening security clearance requirements. Cold War-era rules prohibited serving in the intelligence community if you had relatives who lived overseas. Such a requirement is unrealistic in light of new immigration patterns, Sanders said.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 25, 2006 at 10:31AM | Comments (0)

ODNI Report Discusses Clearance Reforms

A new, unclassified report issued by the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (ODNI) and approved for release via the Federation of American Scientists’ Secrecy Project highlights challenges ahead for Intelligence Community personnel management. The Report touches upon aspects of security clearance reform…

Posted by The Editors on Oct 19, 2006 at 02:52PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Timeframe at OPM

The Office of Personnel Management claims, as of mid-October 2006, it is taking about 150 days to process a clearance, according to a participant in an online chat session hosted by the Washington Post:

Questioner: I was just wondering what you think is more likely to be accurate as far as the average security clearance adjudication at OPM. An article in The Post indicated it was averaging around 18 months for TS; however, a representative from OPM gave an estimate of 151 days. I know that there are many variables, but that is a big difference.

Post reporter: I’m under the impression that most people wait a year for a top secret clearance. OPM is trying to speed up the process, but, as you know, each case can be unique and take more time than expected.

Posted by The Editors on Oct 18, 2006 at 04:08PM | Comments (0)

Sharing of Clearance Information

In an online chat session hosted by the Washington Post, a participant asks whether federal agencies share information on personnel with security clearance. One respondent says the answer varies by agency:

OPM have [sic] the list of all security clearances but not DOD. DSS have [sic] the list for all DOD personnel (including DIA and NSA). But CIA won’t share.

(OPM = Office of Personnel Management;
DOD = Department of Defense;
DSS = Defense Security Service;
DIA = Defense Intelligence Agency;
NSA = National Security Agency;
CIA = Central Intelligence Agency)

Posted by The Editors on Oct 12, 2006 at 04:56PM | Comments (0)

Pentagon 9/11 Survivors Fear Seeking Counseling Could Jeopardize Clearance

The Baltimore Sun reported today that survivors of the September 11, 2001, attack on the Pentagon fear that seeking counseling to help cope with the tragedy could jeopardize their security clearances.

There is survivor guilt and, among some, a painful recognition that the Defense Department did not, on that day, defend…. Some are afraid to seek counseling out of concern that it would jeopardize the security clearances on which their employment depends.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 08, 2006 at 11:16PM | Comments (0)

DoD Posts Clearance Decisions

Persons interested may research and review Department of Defense (DoD) administrative findings on industrial security clearance applications for contractor personnel here.

Cases are identified by Guideline letter, so readers should first familiarize themselves with the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Access to Classified Information, which may be found here.

Posted by The Editors on Sep 01, 2006 at 11:42AM | Comments (0)

Time Abroad, "Foreign Influence" Stymie Recent Grad's Cleared Job Prospects

A recent Newsweek article reports the alleged difficulties an otherwise exceptionally-qualified college grad has experienced securing a clearance to work at key federal agencies.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 24, 2006 at 12:53AM | Comments (0)

Top Grads Say Clearance Delays Necessitate Alternative Careers

In a recent article in Newsweek, graduating college seniors say the prolonged wait for clearance approvals, sometimes due to lengthy overseas student travel, has them considering or accepting other careers.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 24, 2006 at 12:24AM | Comments (0)

House Says Clearance Reforms Moving Too Slowly

In its Initial Assessment on the Implementation of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, the Subcommittee on Oversight of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence reviews initial reforms in security clearance processing and finds fault, on several counts, in the efforts of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The July 2006 Subcommittee report, relevant portions of which begin on page 30, also identifies key reforms mandated in legislation and Executive Orders.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 23, 2006 at 11:38PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Applicants Advised to Sanitize Online Profiles

A recent online article advises caution when posting online profiles, as potential employers and security clearance investigators may search them for evidence of indiscretions.

A CIA contractor recently lost her security clearance, and job, after posting opinion to a chatroom. Read about it here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 22, 2006 at 06:01PM | Comments (0)

Credit Score a Factor in Clearance Determinations reports that credit scores increasingly weigh into security clearance determinations.

“There is a recognition that the credit score is becoming the number that is the key to all kinds of things,” says Jean Ann Fox, director of consumer protection for the Consumer Federation of America. These days, whether you’re trying to get a loan, a job or a security clearance, chances are someone will be viewing your credit score.

The story is also accessible here. A link between success of a security clearance application and credit rating was also made here.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 21, 2006 at 03:57PM | Comments (0)

Guiding Employers on Clearance Investigations

Washington, DC, attorney Rand Allen teamed with a colleague to pen a thorough review of policies and procedures involved in a security clearance investigation.

In light of the opportunities available to defense contractors and other businesses seeking to obtain contract awards after 9/11 or the post-war Iraq era, a decision to deny or revoke a security clearance of a particular officer or employee can have serious ramifications for that government contractor…

The article cautions employers to seek to identify potential impediments to clearance in the pre-employment process and offers strategy on responding to the government’s Statement of Reasons (SOR) denying or revoking a clearance.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 04:09PM | Comments (0)

ABA Review of Clearance Demand, Reform

In a March 2005 article (unavailable online) titled “Security Clearance Backlog Can Result in More Work, More Challenges for Lawyers,” the ABA Journal of the American Bar Association reviewed pending changes in security clearance investigations and their impact.

The backlog of investigations for security clearances had been increasing steadily in past decades, as did work for lawyers helping corporations and individuals get them.

Then came Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, security clearance investigations are more stringent and more numerous, driven by demand from a ramped-up defense industry and the new Department of Homeland Security. Backlogs have ballooned, and workers with the prized clearances are in short supply. But there is no shortage of work for their lawyers…

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 03:01PM | Comments (0)

Foreign Preference in Security Clearance Determinations

In July 2006, Washington, DC-based attorney Mark Zaid, consulted often by Congress on security clearance issues, testified before a House committee investigating the government’s use of foreign preference concerns to revoke or deny security clearances. Zaid argued that loyal and trustworthy Americans of valuable service to the government are being denied clearance due to harmless ties to foreign countries.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 10, 2006 at 01:14AM | Comments (1)

Adjudicators Question New Timelines for Clearance Approvals

According to an October 2005 article in Federal Computer Week, some security clearance adjudicators find fault in new deadlines for processing clearance applications. Also discussed are steps employers and clearance applicants can take to expedite approvals.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 09, 2006 at 12:53AM | Comments (0)

OMB Issues Guidance on Clearance Reciprocity

In December 2005, the Office of Management and Budget issued guidance enforcing reciprocity of existing security clearances, pursuant to Executive Order 13381. The guidance addressed several action issues, including cases where reciprocity is required, a community-wide accessible database to locate personnel clearance information, and improving confidence among clearance adjudicators in each other’s work to ease reciprocity.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 08, 2006 at 05:19PM | Comments (0)

Pentagon to Allow Contractors With Expired Clearances to Continue Work

The Office of Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons reports that the Pentagon will allow defense contractors with pending but delayed clearance renewals to continue to work at a site in the State. Correspondence the Congressman received from the Pentagon clarifies DoD policy on handling of “expired” clearances. See also this story and this story.

Posted by The Editors on Aug 03, 2006 at 02:16PM | Comments (0)

Alleged Seattle Jewish Center Gunman Has Security Clearance

July 30, 2006: According to news reports, here and here, a man who allegedly opened fire at a Seattle Jewish center, killing one and wounding at least five others, holds a federally-issued security clearance as a condition of his employment at the Hansford nuclear reservation. The suspect reportedly worked there with his father and other members of the local Muslim community.

Notably, just prior to the shooting, the suspect reportedly was stopped and ticketed for a minor traffic infraction but, according to police, gave no indication of suspicious activity or his impending plan.

In light of recent policy recommendations that persons holding security clearances should be entitled to expedited screening at airports, this incident is particularly noteworthy. It is also notable that the suspect held a clearance despite reports of a history of mental illness and pending charge of lewd conduct.

You can share your reactions to these stories below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 31, 2006 at 05:16AM | Comments (0)

Citing Foreign Influence or Preference in Clearance Denials

July 13, 2006: The House Government Reform Committee held a hearing to examine what, if any, role considerations of foreign influence play in security clearance determinations. The Federation of American Scientists reports on and links to the hearing.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 10:05PM | Comments (0)

Using Automation to Speed Clearance Processing

July 12, 2006: A group of government and industry experts testified
to Congress that the Office of Personnel Management ought to utilize automation to expedite security clearance approvals.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:58PM | Comments (0)

Tracking Progress on Expediting Clearances

July 2006: According to news reports, federal officials insist steps are being taken to expedite the processing of security clearances. See here and here.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:56PM | Comments (0)

Are Hastened Investigations Impacting Thoroughness?

July 11, 2006: An article in Government Executive magazine reports that Federal government security clearance processors face challenges in completing clearance investigations by mandated deadlines. One complaint is that the quality of initial investigations suffers. Time allowed for investigations may not permit use of “dangles” to test a person’s trustworthiness. See also here. (Editor’s Note: If this link does not function, try adding an equals sign to the end.)

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:31PM | Comments (0)

Clearance Processing Continues to Generate Big Business

July 10, 2006: The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has awarded multi-million dollar contracts to five companies to perform background investigations on current and prospective federal government employees, contractors, and military personnel for the purposes of security clearance determinations. See also this story.

Has outsourcing clearance investigations impacted, positively or negatively, their speed or quality? Are there reasons why outsourcing such work is not in the public interest? Share your thoughts and insights below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:25PM | Comments (0)

Government Applies New Tool in Clearance Investigations

July 6, 2006: USAToday has printed a detailed story
about the Federal government’s use of National Security Letters (NSLs) to request consumer, financial, travel, and other personal information about investigation suspects. The FBI reportedly uses such letters to collect consumer, financial, travel and other data from “all commercial entities” in investigations of Executive Branch employees holding security clearances.

What details can you share about the Government’s use of NSLs in investigating federal employees? Share your insights below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 28, 2006 at 09:18PM | Comments (0)

Are Polygraph Exams Arbitrary and Unfair?

June 20, 2006: A Washington Post article discusses how polygraph examinations are interpreted differently among various government agencies during security clearance deliberations.

Visit our Links for more information on polygraph exams.

Do you have helpful suggestions for others on how to prepare for and survive a polygraph exam? Share them below, or post a message on the ClearanceWatch message board.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 09:32PM | Comments (0)

Veteran Diplomat Says Israel Links Costs Him His Clearance

June 2006: An article in the New York Sun reports the case of a State Department diplomat whose security clearance was suspended allegedly due to ties to Israel.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 09:23PM | Comments (0)

Payday Loans Put Cash-Strapped Sailors' Clearances at Risk

June 2006: Sea Power magazine reports
that enlisted personnel have risked, and in some cases lost, their security clearance after taking high-interest payday loans that ultimately impair their finances and make them appear a security threat.

US Senator Jim Talent, citing security clearance concerns, is taking action to limit debt burdens associated with payday loans. Read about it here. An amendment he fashioned to limit interest charged military personnel reportedly was included in the 2007 defense appropriations bill.

Have military clearance adjudicators stepped too far here, or do they have a legitimate concern that cash-strapped cleared personnel might compromise classified information to improve their finances? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 09:12PM | Comments (0)

DoD Officials Say Clearance Delay Indefinite

May 12, 2006: A news article
reports that Department of Defense (DoD) officials are unsure when security clearance investigations, halted for lack of funds, will resume.

Is your DoD-issued clearance delayed? What have you learned about the reasons why and the process going forward? Share your insights with us below, so others may be “in the know,” too.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 05:33PM | Comments (0)

Why Sexual Preference Could Jeopardize Your Clearance

May/June 2006: According to an article (registration required), “’Sexual Behavior’ is Back in U.S. Security Checks,” in the May/June 2006 edition of Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide, sexual behavior that involves a criminal offense, indicates a personality or emotional disorder, reflects lack of judgment or discretion, or which may subject the individual to undue influence or coercion, exploitation, or duress can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information and unfavorably impact a security clearance determination.

See also this related Post from March 2006.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 05:18PM | Comments (0)

Congress Faults Initial DoD Clearance Improvements

May 2006: The Department of Defense (DoD) has stopped processing new clearances because the Defense Security Service, which handles the process, has run out of funds. According to news reports, at a Congressional hearing, Members of Congress were not satisfied to hear that limited funds have been identified to resume processing clearances, and they sought more lasting solutions from government witnesses with responsibility for clearance processing. See also, this story.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 05:11PM | Comments (0)

DHS Official's Arrest Prompts Criticism in Congress of Clearance Investigations

April 2006: News reports, such as this one, detail criticism in Congress of security clearance investigation procedures in the aftermath of the arrest of a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official suspected of soliciting sex from minors over the Internet. The official reportedly had engaged in similar behavior in a previous job, which critics argue should have been caught and used in the investigation process to deny his clearance. (A similar report, written by Stephen Barr, appeared in the April 10, 2006, edition of the Washington Post.)

Have you knowledge or experience that demonstrates that investigators have been lazy in investigating the work histories of clearance applicants? If so, post your insights below, and note which agencies were involved.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 04:42PM | Comments (0)

Top DHS Official Loses Clearance for Allegedly Soliciting Minors on the Internet

April 6, 2006: Reuters reported the suspension of the security clearance of a high-level Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official after his arrest for allegedly using the Internet to seduce an underage female.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 02:54PM | Comments (0)

Sexual Preference Factored Into Security Clearance Determinations

March 2006: Fox News and the Associated Press reported
that the White House has rewritten regulations making it easier to deny a security clearance based upon sexual orientation.

Do you know of cases where such considerations affected a clearance decision? Apparently, there is precedent. Are such considerations justified? Share your perspectives below.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 02:46PM | Comments (0)

GAO Seeks Answers to DoD Clearance Delays

June 2005: The General Accountability Office (GAO) issued a preliminary report on security clearance delays at the Department of Defense. Delays were reported in identifying which jobs (and personnel) require clearance, completing security investigations, and monitoring the status of clearance adjudications by integrating several government databases.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 02:35PM | Comments (0)

Pentagon Employee's Clearance Revoked for Suspected Ties to Investigation Subject

November 2003: A Pentagon employee had his security clearance revoked after he was suspected of having links to a Lebanese-American businessman under federal investigation for involvement in a gun-running scheme to Liberia.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 12:31PM | Comments (0)

Jewish Americans at a Disadvantage for CIA Clearance?

An article in Salon magazine examines whether the Central Intelligence Agency stereotypes Jews as security risks.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 12:27PM | Comments (0)

Weighing Clearance Appeal Rights for Government Employees

A report published in Government Executive magazine reviews statistics on clearance denials and revocations at the Department of Defense and arguments over whether federal employees enjoy similar opportunities as contractors to challenge unfavorable security clearance determinations.

Posted by The Editors on Jul 27, 2006 at 12:24PM | Comments (0)

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