Don’t Listen to Bad Advice on Clearance Applications
Security clearance applicants should beware of heeding advice that contradicts answering truthfully and providing full disclosure on the SF-86. Ultimately, it is you who will have to answer the mail when it comes out during the course of the investigation process. A defense contractor found this out the hard way when the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals denied his appeal for a clearance. In many other posts I have mentioned that dishonesty and lies will eventually catch up to you through the course of multiple investigations. Such was the case here when this applicant lied on his SF-86 in 2011 about illegal prescription drug use and an employment termination, lied about it again in 2014 on another SF-86, and then once again during his interview with an investigator. When queried again by an investigator a month later, the applicant finally laid bare the details about the circumstances of his leaving employment from a pharmacy. He was illegally using prescription pills, was selected for a random drug test, and quit before taking it because he knew he would test positive.
The judge had no sympathy for the applicant’s excuse that he was told by the company recruiter that sponsored him for the clearance not to disclose this information on the form. The disqualifying conditions under the Personal Conduct guideline are quite clear:
- deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of relevant facts from any personnel security questionnaire, personal history statement, or similar form used to conduct investigations, determine employment qualifications, award benefits or status, determine security clearance eligibility or trustworthiness, or award fiduciary responsibilities
- deliberately providing false or misleading information concerning relevant facts to an employer, investigator, security official, competent medical authority, or other official government representative
This applicant tried to convince the judge that mitigation should be applied because he was advised by the recruiter not to disclose the information. Based on the form, however, any reasonable person would know the information was required to be disclosed. Additionally, the mitigating condition the applicant referred to in his appeal actually states:
- the refusal or failure to cooperate, omission, or concealment was caused or significantly contributed to by improper or inadequate advice of authorized personnel or legal counsel advising or instructing the individual specifically concerning the security clearance process. Upon being made aware of the requirement to cooperate or provide the information, the individual cooperated fully and truthfully;
Common sense says that a company recruiter is not an authorized person or legal counsel. Also, the fact the applicant did not come forward to correct his falsifications until confronted with the information by the investigator was a strike against him. This was a slam dunk case from the outset with little or no chance for the applicant to overcome his dishonesty.
Thank you for this article. There are so many complexities with the clearance process that is so easy to receive bad advice. I witnessed this first hand as my sponsoring agency told me not to include national foreign contact forms for individuals that are American/Dual Citizen. Before going to the background investigation, the investigator asked why I did not fill out the forms for the American/Dual citizens, and I told her that I was instructed not to. She made me fill one out. This doesn’t seem as bad as the situation in the article, but anyone can still look at it as I was trying to hide information. Its hard to know the do’s and dont’s of an application especially being a first time clearance applicant. Even more experienced applicants can be confused as the process and application seems to change regularly.