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 on Sept. 3, and Giardina was relieved of those duties on Oct. 9, according to an article in the Star Tribune. Being removed from his position also resulted in a demotion to the two-star general. Between the time of his suspension and relief of duties, Giardina had not been permitted to perform duties that required the 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.