Federal security clearance is based on the potential or perceived risk to classified information and national security interests. A certain level of security clearance is required to obtain most federal jobs, even when the position does not directly involve sensitive information. It can be revoked for many reasons — not only for criminal acts but for “bad behavior” or a change in your personal circumstances.
Losing your clearance could result in termination from your current position or any hope of advancement. It could lead to being barred from working for any government agency or federal contractor. If you are facing disciplinary action or investigation that jeopardizes your security clearance, seek legal counsel immediately.
Grounds For revocation of security clearance
All federal agencies adhere to the Adjudication Guidelines, which establish 13 potential justifications for denying or revoking federal security clearance:
- Allegiance to the United States – Affiliating with or sympathizing with terrorists or overthrow of the government
- Foreign influence – Association with foreign citizens or businesses that could lead to coercion
- Foreign preference – Conflict of interest due to dual citizenship, service in a foreign military, or receiving benefits from another country.
- Outside activities – Involvement with any foreign individual or organization engaged in dissecting or disseminating material relating to U.S. defense, foreign affairs, intelligence or protected technology.
- Criminal conduct – Conviction for a serious crime or multiple lesser offenses; allegations or admission of criminal activity
- Security violations – Willful breaches, unauthorized or reckless disclosure of classified information
- Misuse of information technology – Unauthorized access (hacking), malicious coding, hindering access to systems, removing hardware or software, disabling security measures
- Personal conduct – A wide spectrum, such as associating with known criminals, hindering a clearance investigation, giving false information, or reports from past employers or neighbors of unsavory behavior
- Sexual behavior – Criminal acts, sex addiction or sexual activities that compromise the employee or show lack of judgment
- Financial considerations – Unexplained wealth, heavy debts, gambling addiction or a pattern of being irresponsible with money and financial obligations
- Alcohol consumption – Alcohol-related incidents, medical diagnosis of alcohol abuse, relapse after treatment
- Drug involvement – Drug-related incidents, diagnosis of drug addiction, using drugs after rehab
- Psychological conditions – Failure to follow prescribed treatment for emotional, mental or personality disorders; a pattern of incidents or high-risk, aggressive or unstable behaviors.
Take action to protect your rights
As the list shows, conduct need not be criminal or directly job-related to justify revoking your clearance. The government’s rationale is that if your integrity is compromised, your access to classified information can be exploited. The threat may seem far-fetched to you, but the Defense Security Service and other federal adjudicators are dead serious. Without skilled legal representation, you could swiftly lose your clearance, your job, your career and your federal pension.
As a federal employee, you have remedies to fight revocation or get your security clearance reinstated. However, there is short window to invoke your due process rights and no margin for error.
The employment law attorneys of Passman & Kaplan practice almost exclusively in the federal system. We can advise and defend you in investigations, disciplinary proceedings, security clearance revocations and appeals of adverse employment actions. Speak to one of our experienced lawyers as soon as possible.