Security clearance isn’t attainable by everyone; not even a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist hired by the White House.
Authorities recently denied security clearance for Ashkan Soltani, a former Washington Post journalist hired to work alongside Megan Smith, White House chief technology officer and a former Google executive. His job duties included privacy, data ethics and technical outreach, according to a Business Insider article.
A Federal Times article stated that Soltani was appointed to the White House post to advise Smith on “the ethical issues around privacy and big data and help engage with technologists, both in the private sector and by encouraging more to sign up for public service.”
Prior to working briefly with Smith, Soltani had been with the Federal Trade Commission since October 2014, where he worked on consumer protection issues.
Although there is much speculation as to why Soltani’s clearance was denied, an official reason for the denial has not been made public.
The story has been of interest to attorney Catie Young, as she specializes in security clearance law and offers SF-86 assistance to clients pursuing clearance for work.
Soltani has told several media outlets that have written articles about his circumstance that he would not speculate on the reasons his clearance was denied. He said he’s been told that this happens from time to time.
The speculators say the denial is rooted in Soltani’s work with the Washington Post. He reviewed the documents released by Edward Snowden for information that was worthy of stories, according to Tech Dirt.
Several media outlets have reported that some former government officials, including former National Security Agency director, did not believe Soltani should work for the government.
Tech Dirt recently shared this statement made by Hayden after the FTC hired Soltani in 2014:
“I’m not trying to demonize this fella, but he’s been working through criminally exposed documents and making decisions about making those documents public.”
If Soltani doesn’t yet know the official reason his clearance was denied, he should learn that reason soon, Young says.
“If you’re denied a security clearance or your security clearance is revoked, the government notifies you via a Statement of Reasons,” she said. “Along with that, you’re provided with information on how to file an appeal so you can address the reasons for denial and provide additional information that might alter the decision.”
Young recommends that security clearance applicants consult an attorney who specializes in this area of law to determine whether they would benefit from SF-86 assistance. The SF-86 is a questionnaire that all security clearance applicants must complete.
“It is a very long questionnaire that asks a great deal of information,” Young says. “Ensuring that all information is entered correctly and all questions are answered adequately can help prevent delays in the investigation and approval process.”
If you receive a Statement of Reasons notifying you that your clearance application is denied, you also can consult an attorney and obtain assistance in going through the appeal process.
“For many people, not having a security clearance can prevent them from keeping their job, which apparently was the case with Mr. Soltani,” Young says. “When your livelihood is at stake, you might want to consider having an attorney in your corner on appeal.”