Congressional Staffer Indicted for Falsifying SF-86
I have seen an uptick in the number of cases taken on by Federal prosecutors related to security clearance holders caught lying on the SF-86. It seems that this particular long-standing issue has garnered more attention in the current clearance reform arena and providing false information is being taken more seriously now. In this particular case, a long-term congressional staffer was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tipped them off to the fact that he had failed to file and pay Federal taxes from 2008-12. During their investigation, the FBI discovered the staffer had a Top Secret security clearance for his position on the House Committee on Homeland Security. Following that thread, agents reviewed his SF-86 application filled out in 2013 which showed the staffer had falsified his application when he answered “no” to the question in the Financial Section: “in the past seven (7) years have you failed to file or pay federal, state, or other taxes when required by law?
How did he get away with this you ask? Apparently he used a loophole where he submitted a Federal tax withholding form (W-4) through his employer to the IRS certifying he was exempt from paying Federal income taxes. Neither his employer nor the IRS questioned it until April 2013 when the IRS realized the error and started garnishing his wages to the tune of $1500 per month. Based on this information one could surmise that the staffer was effectively put on notice he was delinquent in filing and paying his taxes, right? Yet, in September 2013 he filled out the SF-86 for a Top Secret clearance and lied about his tax situation. Here he is, 4 years later, facing criminal charges in Federal court for providing false statements and aiding & abetting. The motive for his conduct was not revealed in the indictment and one wonders what he was doing that he needed extra money on top of his $170,000 annual salary. Ultimately, his lack of candor and dishonesty had consequences. The moral of this story is…(fill in the blank).
I go to great lengths making clear to each applicant they are the only ones with “skin in the game” concerning their clearance. Many do not wish to speak to past drug use or tax issues, unpaid student loans etc. The best I can explain is to treat it as an honesty test. They don’t care if the person missed a bill, but caught up. They don’t care if a person used MJ as a kid. Just speak to it. But be up front. Trying to hide any of it will only come back on them. Particularly if they are dishonest on the Secret BI SF 86, and then later tell more of the truth on a TS BI SF 86. The discrepancy between the two can and will trip a person up. Likewise for not mentioning an expunged or dismissed arrest. If you do not speak to it the assumption is you are hiding it, and therefor less trustworthy.