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Top reasons security clearances get denied or revoked

There are many reasons security clearances get denied or revoked.  However, personal conduct, drug involvement, and security violations are three reasons that we frequently encounter in our work.  For each of these reasons, the federal regulations identify factors that will normally result in denial or revocation of a clearance, and there are certain factors that may result in an unfavorable clearance action.  Here’s what you need to know about these factors, as well as mitigating conditions.

Reason #1: Personal conduct

Personal conduct is “conduct involving questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, dishonesty, or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations could indicate that the person may not properly safeguard classified information.”

These types of personal conduct normally result in an unfavorable security clearance determination:

  • Refusal to undergo or cooperate with required security processing, including medical and psychological testing
  • Refusal to complete required security forms and releases, or to provide full and truthful answers to investigators, security officials, and other representatives in connection with a personnel security or trustworthiness determination

These types of personal conduct may result in denial or revocation of a clearance:

  • Reliable, unfavorable information provided by associates, employers, coworkers, neighbors, and other acquaintances
  • Deliberately omitting or concealing from or falsifying facts on any personnel security questionnaire, personal history statement, or similar forms used to conduct investigations, determine employment qualifications, award benefits or status, determine security clearance eligibility or trustworthiness, or award fiduciary responsibilities
  • Deliberately providing false or misleading information to an investigator, security official, medical authority, or other representative in connection with a personnel security or trustworthiness determination
  • Personal conduct or concealment of information that may increase your vulnerability to coercion, exploitation, or duties, such as engaging in activities which, if known, may affect your personal, professional, or community standing or make you susceptible to blackmail
  • A pattern of dishonesty or rule violations, including violation of an agreement between you and the agency
  • Associating with persons involved in criminal activity

Mitigating personal conduct

However, the following conditions may mitigate or reduce concerns about your personal conduct:

  • Negative information was unsubstantiated or not pertinent to judgment, trustworthiness, or reliability
  • Falsification of information was an isolated incident and not recent
  • You voluntarily provided correct information
  • Evidence of prompt, good faith efforts to correct falsification before being confronted
  • The omission of facts was based on improper or inadequate advice of authorized personnel and promptly provided full and correct information
  • Evidence of positive efforts to significantly reduce or eliminate vulnerability to coercion, exploitation, or duress
  • Refusal to cooperate with security processing requirements was based on advice from legal counsel or other officials and, upon learning that your cooperation was required, you provided full and truthful information
  • You no longer associate with persons involved in criminal activities

Reason #2: Drug involvement

The government may deny, suspend, or revoke your security clearance based on improper or illegal involvement with drugs. Disqualifying drug involvement may involve the use of drugs like marijuana that are legal under state law but illegal under federal law.  Abusing prescription or other legal drugs may also prevent you from getting a clearance.

These conditions may disqualify you from access to classified information:

  • Drug abuse
  • Illegal drug possession
  • Diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence by a medical professional
  • Evaluation of drug abuse or dependence by a licensed social worker
  • Failure to successfully complete a prescribed drug treatment program
  • Recent drug involvement
  • An expressed intent to continue drug use

Mitigating drug involvement

However, prior drug use may not necessarily prevent you from getting a clearance.  The following conditions may mitigate concerns regarding your drug involvement:

  • Your drug involvement was not recent.
  • Your drug involvement was isolated.
  • You have demonstrated intent not to abuse drugs in the future.
  • You satisfactorily completed a prescribed drug treatment program, without recurrence of abuse, and received a favorable prognosis from a credentialed medical professional.

Reason #3: Security violations

The government can deny or revoke your clearance because of noncompliance with security regulations that raises doubt about your trustworthiness, willingness, and ability to safeguard classified information.

These are conditions that may disqualify you from obtaining or keeping your clearance:

  • Unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
  • Violations that are deliberate, multiple, or due to negligence.

Mitigating security violations

These conditions may mitigate concerns based on security violations:

  • Violations were inadvertent, isolated, or infrequent.
  • Violations were due to improper or inadequate training.
  • You have demonstrated a positive attitude towards the discharge of security responsibilities.

How can an attorney help me appeal a clearance decision?

A negative security clearance determination can have devastating effects on your career.  An experienced employment attorney can discuss your rights, draft a response to a Letter of Intent, or represent you in an appeal of a negative determination.

If you received a Letter of Intent to deny, suspend, or revoke your clearance, Alan Lescht and Associates, P.C., can help.  Our attorneys will work with you to respond to the charges against you and gather evidence of mitigating conditions.  We represent federal government employees and contractors in matters involving denial, revocation, and suspension of security clearances.

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