Child Pornography Charges lead to Two Clearance Denials
Two recent Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) cases involved security clearance applicants who had been charged with viewing child pornography, which is a felony offense. Both applicants were denied eligibility for a clearance and on appeal, argued the websites and pictures they had viewed were not considered child pornography even though the law enforcement agencies involved proved otherwise in court. Additionally, one of the applicants accepted a plea deal offer for a lesser charge from the prosecutor and completed court-mandated probationary terms. In the other case the charges were dropped in court due ti the applicant not being the main target of the investigation, but the applicant was issued a formal reprimand from his military chain of command and had his clearance revoked.
In today’s day and age where the internet is used for a variety of criminal activities, viewing or possessing child pornography is a high priority for law enforcement and multi-agency task forces carry out numerous investigations and stings to ferret out and prosecute those who engage in this behavior. Ever-sophisticated tools and technology are used to catch those who exploit children. Programs such as Cellebrite are used by forensic experts to extract data and images from mobile phones and IP address monitoring is prevalent in order to track file and image sharing. Police even used canines to track hidden electronics that are coated with triphenylphosphine oxide (TPPO).
The issues in these types of cases fall under Guideline D: Sexual Behavior and the adjudicative guidelines state disqualifying conduct as “sexual behavior of a criminal nature, whether or not the individual has been prosecuted.” Factors considered are the potential for coercion or exploitation, recency, frequency, intent or propensity to continue, and whether force, violence or intimidation were involved. Anyone who engages in the exploitation of children displays a serious lack of judgment and cannot be trusted to protect classified information. Thankfully, in both DOHA appeal cases the judge opined there was enough evidence to reasonably conclude the two applicants engaged in the criminal behavior regardless of the final outcome by the courts – clearance eligibility denied!