Understanding Guideline C – Foreign Preference

Foreign PreferenceENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA – This is our latest installment in our ongoing series where we explain the government’s reasons it may give for security clearance denial.

Today, we cover Guideline C of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information: Foreign Preference.

Military personnel, government employees and government contractors who need access to classified information to perform their job duties must obtain security clearance. Those who are denied clearance after applying for it are given a Statement of Reasons, which lists one or more of the 13 adjudicative guidelines as reasons for denying the application.

When the government denies clearance to an applicant under Guideline C, this means there is concern the applicant might “be prone to provide information or make decisions that are harmful to the interests of the United States,” according to information on the U.S. Department of State website.

Some conditions that could raise a security concern and may disqualify you include:

• Possessing a current foreign passport
• Serving in the military or being willing to bear arms for a foreign country
• Seeking or holding political office in a foreign country
• Making statements or taking actions that show allegiance to a country other than the U.S., such as renouncing or declaring intent to renounce U.S. citizenship
As is the case with all adjudicative guidelines, there are some mitigating conditions. Examples of these include:
• Your dual citizenship is based solely on your parents’ citizenship or birth in a foreign country
• You’re willing to renounce dual citizenship
• Exercising your foreign citizenship rights, privileges or obligations took place before becoming a U.S. citizen or when you were a minor
• Voting in a foreign election was encouraged by the United States government

The September 2013 decision by the Department of Defense’s Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals to deny eligibility for access to classified information under Guideline B (Foreign Influence) and Guideline C serves as a good example for our article today.

The applicant in this case is a dual citizen of Israel and the U.S., according to information in the decision. He has worked for a government contractor since 1996. Evidence presented during the hearing showed he had renewed his Israeli passport several times and had traveled to Israel on that passport multiple times through the years, instead of using his American passport.

The applicant’s wife and one of his children also hold dual citizenship. His son was born in the U.S. and obtained dual citizenship so he could receive a scholarship to attend a prestigious Israeli University to earn his master’s degree.

The applicant inherited property in Israel after his parents died valued at about $400,000 that earns him about $1,200 per month in rental income. He also inherited a bank account in Israel worth about $115,000.

When stating that he would renounce his Israeli citizenship if the DoD required it for security clearance purposes, he added he “would not do it happily.”

Israel is among the foreign countries that target and acquire sensitive and protected U.S. technologies, according to information included in the decision. Authorities identified Israel as an “active collector of proprietary information” in a 2000 National Counterintelligence Center Report to Congress on Foreign Economic and Industrial Espionage.

After considering all the evidence, Administrative Judge Jennifer I. Goldstein concluded: “In light of all of the circumstances presented by the record in this case, it is not clearly consistent with the national interest to grant Applicant eligibility for a security clearance. Eligibility for access to classified information is denied.”

This applicant acted on his own behalf throughout the security clearance application, Statement of Reasons response, and hearing process. While it is acceptable to do this, it’s not always advisable, says John Griffith, an attorney who specializes in this area of law and routinely assists clients who aren’t well versed in how to obtain security clearance.

“It’s not possible to determine if the outcome would have been different, had this applicant retained a lawyer to assist him through the application and hearing process,” Griffith says. “But when you’re involved in a process that potentially can affect your ability to earn a living, I think it’s a wise choice to consult an attorney.”

The attorneys here at Security Clearance Law Group offer a complimentary consultation to discuss your options and explain how they can assist you throughout the security clearance application process. Call today to schedule an appointment.

© 2013 Griffith, Young & Lass, APC. Authorization to re-post and/or share is granted, with the stipulation that Griffith, Young & Lass,  APC., is credited as the sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links. 

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Navy Vice Admiral Demoted, Investigated for Gambling-Related Issues

Gambling-Related IssuesENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA –The investigation of Navy Vice Adm. Tim Giardina pales in comparison to the Aaron Alexis Navy Yard shooting we wrote about recently, but it presents the second opportunity in two months for us to use real-world, Navy-related scenarios to explain the intricacies of security clearance law.

News broke in late September that Giardina – who was second-in-command at U.S. Strategic Command, which controls our country’s nuclear arsenal – was being investigated due to “allegations he used a ‘significant amount’ of counterfeit gambling chips in a poker game at his favorite Iowa casino,” according to a Daily Mail UK article.

StratCom commander Gen. Robert Kehler suspended Giardina from his duties Sept. 3, and Giardina was relieved of those duties Oct. 9, according to an article in the Star Tribune. Being removed from his position also resulted in a demotion to two-star general. Between the time of his suspension and relief of duties, Giardina had not been permitted to perform duties that required use of his security clearance. Other reports state that he currently has no security clearance since being reassigned to Washington, D.C.

Iowa state officials have said Giardina allegedly used $1,500 in counterfeit chips at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa. The casino is just across the Missouri River from StratCom headquarters near Omaha, Nebraska.

David Dales, a special agent in charge with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation told ABC News in late September that in June, the agency began investigating the introduction of counterfeit poker chips during a game at the casino. Other sources report that Giardina gave misleading statements during the investigation.

What does all of this have to do with government security clearance? A lot. Gambling is one of the concerns mentioned in Guideline F (Financial Considerations) of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. If the investigation reveals that Giardina was dishonest regarding the information he provided to investigators, his security clearance could be in jeopardy under Guideline E (Personal Conduct), as well.

“No one at our firm is involved in this case, so we won’t comment on specifics,” says John Griffith, a security clearance lawyer. “But I can certainly explain why gambling might be a problem for someone who holds a high-level security clearance.”

A gambling problem can be an indicator of poor self-control and lack of judgment.

“Desperate times can call for desperate measures, and there’s no telling what a person might do to try and pay off a gambling debt,” Griffith says. “The government doesn’t want someone with a security clearance and a gambling problem to sell secrets as a means of paying off debt. This is extreme, but it’s an example of why gambling can be a hindrance to someone who possesses a security clearance.”

On the other hand, it’s important to note that having had a gambling problem in the past wouldn’t necessarily preclude a person who needs to apply for security clearance from getting it.

“If a person recognized they had a problem, they underwent counseling for it, and they’ve established a good track record of having avoided getting into gambling trouble again, that could be a mitigating circumstance,” Griffith says.

The important thing to remember is that applying for security clearance can be a complicated process, and it’s a good idea to consult an attorney who has experience in this area of law, particularly if you have a gambling past that you fear may come back to haunt you.

© 2013 Griffith, Young & Lass, APC. Authorization to re-post and/or share is granted, with the stipulation that Griffith, Young & Lass,  APC., is credited as the sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Understanding Guideline B – Foreign Influence

John Griffith, a security clearance attorney, explains Statement of Reasons Guideline BENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA — Nearly 5 million people in the United States have some level of security clearance. In addition to those, many apply for and are denied clearance for a number of reasons, including foreign influence concerns.

An applicant who applies for and is denied clearance is provided a Statement of Reasons, which identifies one or more of the 13 adjudicative guidelines as reasons why the application was denied. We’ve explained certain guidelines here on our blog over the past several months, and today we’re sharing information about Guideline B – Foreign Influence.

Military personnel, consultants, contractors, employees of contractors and civilian government employees who require access to classified information as part of their job duties must obtain security clearance.

When a person is granted security clearance, a variety of factors are taken into account, such as the applicant’s commitment to the U.S., reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information, according to information on the U.S. Department of State website.

The concerns outlined in Guideline B revolve around questioning whether an individual applying for clearance has “divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, 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 interest,” according to the Department of State.

A variety of conditions can raise a security concern under Guideline B. However, there also are mitigating circumstances. An attorney with experience in this legal specialty can help an applicant provide adequate information in the SF-86 security questionnaire that is completed when a person applies for security clearance to help ensure the application is approved.

“Simple omissions can be enough to raise concerns for those reviewing these applications,” says John Griffith, a security clearance attorney.

A February 2012 case involving an associate engineer employed by a federal contractor is a good example of how an attorney might have helped this applicant obtain his clearance on the first try, and avoid having his application forwarded by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals to an administrative judge for a determination whether to deny his application, according to information available on the U.S. Department of Defense website.

The applicant was Moroccan-born and came to the U.S. in 1999. He became a U.S. citizen in 2008 and applied for security clearance due to his job in 2009. The security concerns raised in his application centered around not just Guideline B, but also Guideline C (foreign preference) and Guideline E (personal conduct).

He kept his Moroccan passport and his Moroccan identification card after becoming a U.S. citizen, even though he legally changed his name upon being granted U.S. citizenship, but he used his U.S. passport for all foreign travel. When he learned that his Moroccan passport and identification card raised security concerns, he destroyed them, according to DoD information.

The fact that he owned an apartment and maintained a bank account in Morocco, and that his mother, four brothers, wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law are Moroccan citizens and residents raised concerns under Guideline B.

He raised additional concerns by failing to answer questions that pertained to his foreign travel for business and personal reasons accurately.

“Failing to answer questions correctly on the application can lead to suspicion that the responses have been intentionally falsified,” Griffith says. “In this applicant’s case, a review of the document reveals that the applicant apparently didn’t understand the wording of some questions.”

He disclosed pleasure travel, but failed to list business trips that also included pleasure travel.

“He stated that he forgot about some of his pleasure trips that he frequently combined for business and pleasure travel, and that he did not fully understand that he was required to disclose the personal portion of combined business and pleasure travel,” according to DoD records.

“An attorney experienced in security clearance law might have helped this applicant understand the questions better so they could have been answered thoroughly in the application,” Griffith says. “An attorney also might have helped ensure the applicant adequately explained the circumstances around his ownership of property in Morocco and his bank account there.”

The DoD records state the applicant had purchased the apartment for his mother, and the account was in place so the mortgage payments could be made.

Applicants who go through the security clearance application process on their own and are issued a Statement of Reasons should consult a lawyer for guidance on how to approach the hearing and appeal process, Griffith says. Otherwise, they run the risk of having their clearance denied and being forced to find another line of work.

© 2013 Griffith, Young & Lass, APC. Authorization to re-post and/or share is granted, with the stipulation that Griffith, Young & Lass,  APC., is credited as the sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links. 

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Aaron Alexis Shooting Rampage Prompts Security Clearance Scrutiny

Wooden gavel and handcuffsAlexis is the 34-year-old who killed 12 people and injured eight others before being shot dead by police. In the days following this tragedy, sources revealed the loner had a history of mental illness, an extensive disciplinary record during his time in the Navy, and he had been arrested in two previous gun-related incidents in the past 10 years, an LA Times article states.

In spite of all this, Alexis was one of more than 4.9 million government employees and contractors who hold some confidential, secret or top secret security clearance, according to the 2012 Report on Security Clearance Determinations released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Since this incident, President Barack Obama has directed his budget office to conduct a government-wide review of security standards that pertain to contractors and employees of federal agencies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also ordered a review into security and access to military installations worldwide, according to a Washington Post article.

“Tragic situations such as this one really enrage people, because in hindsight, it seems ludicrous that people like Aaron Alexis gain access to weapons and obtain security clearance,” says John Griffith, who specializes in security clearance law. “Just because a person obtains a government clearance that doesn’t always mean they have a spotless record. And just because they don’t have a spotless record that doesn’t always mean they’re unfit for duties that require clearance.”

There are mitigating circumstances that can enable someone with an arrest record or an unfavorable financial history to still obtain clearance. People who apply for security clearance must complete the SF-86 security questionnaire. The form asks for information on arrests, disciplinary actions, foreign influences and other information that could call clearance into question. Even if answers on the questionnaire paint the applicant in an unfavorable light, investigators take several factors into consideration, including how long ago the incidents occurred and whether the incidents have relevance to the person’s position and duties.

Sometimes applicants apply for clearance and receive a Statement of Reasons that outline the government’s intention to deny clearance.

“Even in this situation, there is an opportunity to appeal the decision and grant or restore clearance,” Griffith says.

A recent Washington Post article addressed how contractors like Alexis get clearances. “People with histories of alcoholism, drug use, criminal conduct and significant, delinquent debts” have successfully appealed and been granted clearance, the article states.

As an attorney who specializes in security clearance cases, Griffith’s goal is not to determine whether a client is deserving of clearance, but to ensure that each client is given a fair shake in the process.

“The tragedy at the hands of Aaron Alexis is a sad, unfortunate situation,” he says. “Thankfully, it is an uncommon situation.”

The government, the military and government contractor USIS, which performed the background check, all claim no red flags surfaced during his initial security clearance in 2007, according to a Sept. 20 WJLA news report. USIS is one of three companies the Office of Personnel Management contracts with to perform 70 percent of the government’s security screenings.

Griffith isn’t surprised this incident has prompted a review of security clearance processes.

“I think it’s productive to review the process in light of this tragedy,” Griffith says. “But overall, I believe our process works. Occasionally, some people initially are denied clearance and we are able to overturn that decision during an appeal. We will continue to work for our clients to ensure those who are truly deserving of clearance are granted it so they can continue their livelihoods.”

© 2013 Griffith, Young & Lass, APC. Authorization to re-post and/or share is granted, with the stipulation that Griffith, Young & Lass,  APC., is credited as the sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Understanding Adjudicative Guideline M: Use of IT Systems

Security clearance denial and Adjudicative Guideline MENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA — A judge found Army Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty in July of violating the Espionage Act and sentenced him in August to 35 years in prison.

Part of the reason behind his guilty verdict lies in his violation of Adjudicative Guideline M, which addresses the use of information technology systems. We’re explaining each of the Adjudicative Guidelines here on our blog over the next several weeks and today we’re addressing Guideline M, due to the timeliness the Manning case provides.

Manning, 25, was an intelligence analyst who held a top secret clearance with sensitive compartmented information access. He went to Iraq with his unit in 2009 and acquired sensitive information that he then passed on to WikiLeaks. In doing so, investigations have found that he misused IT systems that were available to him, says John Griffith, an attorney who assists clients with security clearance issues, such as understanding security clearance requirements and drafting a Statement of Reasons (SOR) response when it appears a clearance application will be denied.

It later was determined Manning was the source of a classified video of a U.S. helicopter attack that got posted on the WikiLeaks site, and he was accused of installing unauthorized software onto a classified computer network that provided unauthorized access to information that later turned up on WikiLeaks, according to a 2011 Washington Post article by Ellen Nakashima.

The concern behind Adjudicative Guideline M is failure to comply with “rules, procedures, guidelines or regulations pertaining to information technology systems may raise security concerns about an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness, calling into question the willingness or ability to properly protect sensitive systems, networks and information,” according to the U.S. Department of State’s website. IT systems include all related computer hardware, software, firmware and data used for communicating, transmitting, processing, manipulating, storing or protecting information.

The decision to grant a U.S. government civilian, member of the armed forces, consultant or contractor access to classified information isn’t made without taking into account factors that have the potential to create a conflict of interest and place a person in the position of having to choose between his or her commitment to the U.S. and other loyalties, the site states.

“Those who possess a security clearance must be deemed trustworthy and able to protect the classified information with which they come into contact,” Griffith says. “If a background check calls this ability into question, it is likely the applicant will receive a State of Reasons.”

When notice of security clearance denial is given, there is an appeal process and the applicant has the right to address the information that was collected during the investigation.

“There are many situations where applicants have received a Statement of Reasons, but we have been successful on appeal in restoring clearance for our client,” Griffith says.

In the case of Guideline M, the Department of State’s site offers examples of mitigating circumstances that could prevent clearance from being denied. They include:

  • A significant amount of time has passed since the unfavorable behavior occurred, or the behavior occurred under unique circumstances, and authorities don’t believe the behavior will occur again.
  • The misuse of IT systems is considered minor and committed solely in the interest of efficiency, such as allowing another person to use your password or computer when there wasn’t another timely alternative.
  • The conduct was accidental or inadvertent and you exhibited a good effort to rectify the situation and make your supervisor aware of the circumstances.

If you have applied for security clearance and received a Statement of Reasons that addresses Adjudicative Guideline M or another guideline, or if you have received notice that your security clearance will be revoked due to a violation of Guideline M or another guideline, it is important to contact an attorney who specializes in security clearance law to assist you in the appeal process. Contact our office if you would like to speak to an experienced attorney regarding this matter.

© 2013 Griffith, Young & Lass, APC. Authorization to re-post and/or share is granted, with the stipulation that Griffith, Young & Lass,  APC., is credited as the sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Federal Court of Appeals Clarifies MSPB Role

MSPB role affecting government employeesSAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals issued a key decision Aug. 20 that places limits on reviewing federal agency decisions that affect an employee’s eligibility to hold a sensitive position.

This decision places review limits even in situations that don’t involve the employee’s access to classified information.

In the recently decided case of Kaplan v. Conyers and Northover (C.A.F.C. No. 2011-3207, 8/20/13), the Federal Court of Appeals clarified the role of the Merit Systems Protection Board with respect to the scope of its role in reviewing actions affecting government employees, says John Griffith, an attorney who specializes in helping clients obtain military security clearance, as well as those who have had security clearance denied.

“The Kaplan court made clear that it is not the role of the MSPB to make decisions related to national security,” Griffith says. “The role of the MSPB is to ensure that due process is given to government employees and that proper procedures are followed when government employees face adverse consequences related to employment.”

The MSPB is to only consider whether it was determined that security clearance should have been applied for and obtained for the employee to be placed in their position, whether that clearance was revoked, and whether in doing so, limited procedural protections were followed, according to an article on FedSmith.com. The MSPB also should consider whether the agency transferred the employee to a nonsensitive position if one was available and the employee was qualified for that position.

“It is not the role of the MSPB to decide whether an employee should hold a security clearance or whether a government employee’s job places him/her in a position that puts national security at risk,” says Griffith, adding that other agencies are responsible for making these decisions, such as the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, the Department of the Navy Central Adjudication Facility and the Air Force Central Adjudication Facility.

The Kaplan Court noted: “Deciding whether an individual can impact national security in his/her position is the type of predictive judgment that must be made by those with necessary expertise.” (p. 29) In other words, agencies and not the MSPB, are in the best position to make these judgments.”

© 2013 Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Reasons for Security Clearance Denial – Guideline K

security clearance application denialSAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – We have written in recent months about several reasons why a security clearance application may be denied.

Today we’re addressing Guideline K of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. This outlines the reasons provided to an applicant when a government security clearance application is denied.

This is a timely topic, given the verdict July 30 in the Army Pfc. Bradley Manning court-martial. A judge found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy, but guilty of five counts of espionage. He previously had pleaded guilty to almost a dozen lesser charges related to his giving about 750,000 pages of classified documents and videos to WikiLeaks in 2010.

We’re not here to argue whether Manning is a whistleblower or a traitor, but his case presents a good backdrop for explaining Guideline K: handling protected information.

When there is a security clearance denial and Guideline K is given as the reason in the official Statement of Reasons, it means there are concerns that the applicant has intentionally or negligently failed to abide by the rules and regulations pertaining to the protection of classified or other sensitive information, says John Griffith, an attorney who specializes in security clearance issues and assists clients seeking to apply for security clearance.

“In the government’s eyes, it means there are doubts as to the applicant’s trustworthiness or willingness to protect secure information,” Griffith says.

According to information available to the public on the U.S. Government Printing Office website, factors that could raise security concerns and potentially disqualify a Department of Defense (DoD) security clearance applicant include:

  • Deliberately or negligently disclosing classified or other protected information to unauthorized persons, such as personal and business contacts, or media outlets.
  • Collecting or storing classified or other protected information in an unauthorized location.
  • Loading, drafting, editing, modifying, storing, transmitting or otherwise handling classified reports, data or other information on unapproved computer hardware, software and other equipment.
  • Inappropriate efforts to obtain or view classified or other protected information outside a person’s need to know.
  • Copying classified or other protected information in a manner designed to conceal or remove classification or other document control markings.
  • Viewing or downloading information from a secure system when the information is beyond the individual’s need to know.
  • Failing to comply with rules designed to protect classified or other sensitive information.
  • Negligence or lax security habits that persist, even after being counseled on the issue.
  • Deliberately or negligently failing to comply with rules or regulations, which results in damage to national security.

“If you’ve been denied security clearance under Guideline K, it’s important to consult an attorney to determine the best course of action,” Griffith says. “An attorney who is experienced in this area of law can advise you as to whether you have a good chance at appealing this decision.”

There are some mitigating circumstances. For example, if your actions were inadvertent, isolated or infrequent, an attorney may be able to help you overturn the denial. Another exception would be if the mishandling of sensitive information was due to improper or inadequate training.

Applicants who are denied clearance have the right to request a hearing before an administrative judge. There is a small window of opportunity for doing this – within 15 days of receiving your Statement of Reasons – and failing to make the request within that window means forfeiting your right to a hearing.

You must have a prepared Statement of Reasons response when you get to your hearing. A security clearance attorney can assist you in drafting a proper response that will give you the best chance at successfully appealing the decision.

“The point we always drive home with clients is that quite often, a Statement of Reasons doesn’t mean you’ll be stripped of your security clearance,” Griffith says. “We have a good track record of assisting clients in appealing this decision so they can continue their livelihood.”

© 2013 Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Bradley Manning Verdict Presents Good Lesson in Statement of Reasons Guidelines

Statement of Reasons GuidelinesSAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – The July 30 verdict in the court-martial of Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, who leaked government and diplomatic secrets, brings the world closer to the conclusion of a three-year battle to bring him to justice.

It also provides a real-world example of several Statement of Reasons guidelines that would be grounds for someone in his situation to have their security clearance revoked.

Officials arrested Manning, 25, in May 2010 after discovering he had leaked about 750,000 pages of information to WikiLeaks. It is the largest document leak in history. A judge acquitted Manning of the most serious charge against him – aiding the enemy – but found him guilty of violating the Espionage Act. At the time this post was written, Manning awaited sentencing and faces up to 136 years in prison.

Manning held top secret security clearance and “sensitive compartmentalized information” clearance, according to a CNN article. Top secret is a lower clearance level, while SCI-level information is on a “need to know” basis that may require codes to access.

Although this type of case is unusual, it creates an opportunity to talk about some of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information, says John Griffith, a military security clearance lawyer who assists clients who’ve been denied clearance, as well as those applying for clearance.

A Statement of Reasons is presented when security clearance is denied or revoked, and one or more guidelines are referenced. In a case such as Manning’s, it is likely clearance would be revoked based on guidelines E, K and/or M, Griffith says.

Guideline E pertains to personal conduct such as failure to abide by rules and regulations, Griffith says. Guideline K relates to security violations, while Guideline M details the misuse of information technology systems.

All of these guidelines outline concerns related to a person’s ability to be trusted and to protect classified information.

When military personnel, civilian government employees and contractors for the government are granted security clearance, “the government wants to be sure these people are capable of being trusted with protecting sensitive, potentially harmful information,” Griffith says. “Background checks are conducted, but there surely will always be isolated cases where someone negligently or willfully leaks information.”

The consequences of those actions vary greatly. Punishment could be as minor as revocation of clearance, to as serious as prison time.

“What many people don’t realize is that being issued a Statement of Reasons doesn’t always mean clearance will be denied or revoked,” Griffith says. “If the incident is isolated or infrequent, there may be some recourse.”

It is important to consult an attorney who specializes in this area of law when a situation arises where denial or revocation are possible. Doing so helps ensure you take the best approach in responding to the Statement of Reasons and requesting a hearing.

© 2013 Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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Reasons for Security Clearance Denial – Guideline A

Edward Snowden

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – There’s nothing like a real world example to explain some of the reasons why a person applying for security clearance may be denied.

Edward Snowden has provided that example for us today.

Snowden, a Booz Allen Hamilton infrastructure analyst with a top-secret security clearance, dropped a bombshell on the world in June when he leaked information to the press about mass surveillance programs. He also shared classified material on several top secret National Security Agency programs.

In light of that, we view this as a good time to discuss Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. Guideline A is one of 13 guidelines, which we listed in this recent blog post, which are reasons for security clearance denial.

The reasons for having a process in which an applicant who is in the process of obtaining security clearance is heavily vetted may be clear to many, but it still bears mentioning here. When you are in a position of privileged access – whether you are a military service member, a government employee or a government contractor – you’re exposed to a great deal more information than the average employee. A person who obtains a security clearance must be willing to keep the classified information with which they come in contact safe.

The Snowden case is one such example of what happens when the trust given in the form of security clearance to a government contractor is violated.

“In light of Edward Snowden’s actions, it is obvious that his allegiance to the country has been called into question,” says John Griffith of Security Clearance Law Group, a firm that assists clients seeking clearance, as well as those who have been denied clearance.

There is a multitude of situations that could cause the government to question your allegiance to the country. Examples include being directly involved with, associating or sympathizing with people involved with spying, terrorism, or sabotage in an effort to alter or overthrow the government. Another circumstance that could raise questions as to a person’s allegiance would be involvement in activities that illegally advocate or practice acts of violence or force to keep others from exercising their constitutional rights.

It is important to note that allegiance to the U.S. doesn’t prevent you from being able to criticize the government, Griffith says. That is protected by freedom of speech. It only becomes an allegiance issue when a person acts or prepares to act on those beliefs in a manner that is against the law.

“If you have a security clearance, you’re allowed to hold an unpopular opinion of the U.S., which seems to be how Snowden felt about what he was seeing in his position as an analyst,” Griffith says. “But if he is apprehended by federal officials and brought to trial, there is a possibility that he will be found guilty of having committed acts of sabotage.”

According to interviews granted to The Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, it appears Snowden leaked information because he wanted the public to know the depth of information the government was keeping on U.S. citizens.

“As citizens, we have the right to seek change in government policies or programs, but we can’t break the law in order to create those changes,” Griffith says.

Snowden’s critics say he aided America’s enemies by making them aware of these mass surveillance systems. On June 14, federal prosecutors filed espionage charges against Snowden. He has eluded capture for the past several weeks, and at the time of this blog post, it is unclear whether he will be returned to the U.S. to stand trial.

We have no inside knowledge of the Snowden case and won’t speculate on its outcome, but it is possible (perhaps likely) that he will lose his security clearance. When a person’s security clearance is denied or revoked, he/she receives a “Statement of Reasons,” which details the reasons for the denial or revocation. To use Snowden as an example, his reason might fall under Guideline A.

When this happens, the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals notifies the applicant that he/she has the right to respond with a written rebuttal, as well as schedule a hearing. It is important to submit a Statement of Reasons response, which should be done with an attorney’s assistance.

If you have received a SOR, feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. We are happy to tell you if there is a legitimate chance in appealing this decision, or if your chances of obtaining a security clearance are slim.

© 2013 Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Sinai Marketing and Griffith, Young & Lass are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.

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How to Know When You’re Hiring the Best

tips to select an attorney SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – The old saying “You get what you pay for” didn’t come from thin air. There is merit to it. But the flip side of that coin is a professional who charges an exorbitant fee for services which isn’t always a guarantee you’ve found the best professional for the job. Just as is the case in any line of work, some attorneys are better than others. Following are some valuable tips, should you find yourself in need of an attorney to assist you in completing an SF-86 security questionnaire or to help you through the appeal process if you’ve had your security clearance denied.

1. It never hurts to hire an attorney who’s a veteran, says John Griffith, a government security clearance expert.

“Those who need security clearance typically are in the military or are a government employee or contractor, so choosing an attorney with military experience means they understand the process and the importance of you getting your clearance as expeditiously as possible,” says Griffith, who served in the U.S. Army.

2. Don’t be embarrassed to ask about an attorney’s experience. You want to ensure you hire a professional who is qualified to help you should you be denied clearance and receive a Statement of Reasons. Ask how many statement of reasons cases he or she has handled in the past year, and whether the appeal was successful. Ask who will prepare your case. Find out which federal agencies the attorney has dealt with on security clearance cases.

3. Ask about costs related to your case.

“Cost is almost always a factor, and we post our fee schedule on our site,” says Griffith, adding that his firm offers military discounts and payment plans. “We’re proud to be among the most affordable security clearance law firms out there.”

You also can ask the attorney you’re considering hiring what you can do to help keep your costs at a minimum. A lot of firms charge extremely high fees that simply aren’t necessary, Griffith says. It pays to shop around a bit to be sure you’re getting the best professional you can afford.
4. Ask for an honest opinion regarding your chances for security clearance obtaining. A good attorney will tell you if pursuing an appeal will be fruitless.

5. Don’t be afraid to seek a private attorney. If you’re in the military, it may seem like choosing a military attorney is the obvious move.

“Military attorneys are government employees,” Griffith says. “They’re not always invested in the client as much as a private attorney.”

We hope these tips are helpful to you. We invite you to contact our office, should you have additional questions regarding requirements for security clearance or find yourself in need of a security clearance attorney.

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