Issues That Affect Security Clearances

When you apply for or are maintaining a security clearance, you know that your employment depends on getting and keeping that clearance. You will be judged. Your life will be scrutinized. Your decisions will be picked apart. It is a fact of government employment. Quite frankly, government employees with clearances must live to higher standards in both their employment and personal history than others.

The government looks at four broad areas of your past when considering your application:

  • Your education and work history:
    • Have you gone too many schools?
    • Do you have a habit of jumping from job to job?
    • Have you been fired or quit a job thinking you might be fired?
  • Your financial history:
    • Do you pay your bills on time?
    • Do you have excessive debt?
    • Have you had run-ins with the IRS?
  • Your residences and travel:
    • Have you lived in a country with a questionable history?
    • How many times have you moved?
    • Do you frequently travel to or near countries with questionable histories?
  • Your family, friends, and people and organizations with whom you've associated
    • Are you immediate family members of U.S. citizens? Of what country?
    • Do you have many friends who live outside the U.S.?
    • Are you a member of an organization whose Facebook posts question U.S. policy?
  • Your relationship with law enforcement
    • Have you ever had a DUI? Drunk and Disorderly? Underage drinking?
    • Have you ever experimented with currently or previously illegal drugs?
    • Have you ever been arrested or investigated by a government agency?

Despite the potential for an uncomfortably detailed review of your personal history, a denial or revocation of your clearance is not the end of your career. You will have the right to respond to the government's allegations and decisions. The key is to provide a prompt, well-argued, and supported response. Putting your head in the sand, or thinking that just "ginning" up a response because "that's not what happened" is going to save the day is when most employees lose their clearances permanently.

The lawyers at Kerim Bey Law Partners, LLC, focus on helping people through the process of obtaining and maintaining a security clearance no matter the difficulties. Assistance is available to everyone in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the United States and internationally by calling 215-437-0953 or send an email.

Now here's a closer look at some of the issues that can affect security clearances.

Credit Issues

If you think you have bad credit, you're probably not alone. A 2015 study by the Corporation for Enterprise Development found that more than half of Americans have "subprime" credit scores. Having credit issues can affect your ability to pay off existing debt and obtain new loans at an affordable rate, but it can also affect obtaining or maintaining a security clearance. The government's position is that having too much debt or not handling it correctly opens the door for influence by enemies of the United States and others.

Tax Issues

Filing taxes is an annual chore for every American. No matter if you will refund or have to pay, many people either forget or fail to file in a timely manner. If you are interested in applying for or currently have a national security clearance, then it is important that you are up-to-date on your tax filings and payments with the federal government.

Financial strain and embarrassing tax issues, late filings, not filing, and be subject to IRS levies, liens, and garnishments are common flags. They are not an automatic disqualification, but a questionable tax history will likely result in increased scrutiny of your application or current status.

Criminal Misconduct

The federal government takes any history of criminal misconduct seriously. To the agencies that adjudicate security clearances, criminal charges and convictions can call into question a person's trustworthiness and judgment in following rules and regulations.

If you have been investigated for, charged or convicted of a crime, you know the lifelong consequences it can carry. A history of criminal proceedings against you can affect your ability to get a job, even if the charge is dropped or conviction is expunged. This notion extends to your ability to obtain and maintain a national security clearance from the federal government.

If you have battled criminal charges in the past, have a conviction on your record of any kind or are currently facing criminal proceedings, you should seek additional help with the status of your national security clearance.

As outlined on the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions, the government scrutinizes three kinds of criminal misconduct:

  • Infractions — Crimes that can result in a fine but not jail time like a speeding ticket.
  • Misdemeanors — Crimes that carry a sentence of up to one year in prison.
  • Felonies — Crimes that carry a maximum sentence of more than one year in prison.

Guidance through the application process is always recommended, and those who have a history of criminal misconduct should be prepared for potential problems.

Personal Misconduct

Having someone you do not know question your character is difficult for everyone, but it is a necessary part of the national security application process. Allegations of personal misconduct act as a catch-all category of the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions and do result in a significant portion of appeals and reviews for applicants and adjudicators.

Defining Personal Misconduct And Its Effect On Security Clearances

Because personal misconduct could have a broad application to an applicant's life, it is important first to define what it is and then explain how it can affect your security clearance. Examples of personal misconduct may include:

  • Misrepresenting personal credentials
  • Refusing to cooperate with an interview or investigation
  • Failing to disclose potentially adverse information
  • Negative employment history
  • Potential associations to criminal organizations, even if you do not have a record
  • A network of foreign relationships

Adjudicating agencies will carefully scrutinize your past for potential issues. If the government denies your application because of personal misconduct, it does not mean you are being accused of a crime or that their suspicions are correct. Instead, the government may require more information on your foreign travel or associations to paint a clearer picture of your past.

Additionally, if you already have a security clearance but are confronted with issues like travel abroad, termination at work or a divorce, you should seek guidance on how these processes could affect your current security clearance.

When applying for a national security clearance, we recommend you get professional help through the process. Additionally, if you find yourself confronted with issues that could result in a denial, appeal or a revoked security clearance, your need for help is even more imperative.

The attorneys at Kerim Bey Law Partners, LLC, in Philadelphia is experienced in government affairs. They have worked in high-level government positions and understand how government agencies think when adjudicating your national security clearance. Call our Pennsylvania office at 215-437-0953, or send an email now for free information.