Security Clearance Denial

Ignorance of Laws or Rules is No Excuse

In the national security world, ignorance or mistake of law is generally not an excuse for failing to abide by legal obligations. This opinion has been established long ago by appeals board judges in upholding security clearance denials. There are various adjudicative guidelines where claiming ignorance of the rules or laws is just not plausible. Below are some examples:

  • Guideline H (Drug Involvement): Just because marijuana is legal in the state you are living in or visiting doesn’t mean you can use it and expect to maintain or be granted clearance eligibility. It is common knowledge that under federal law any type of marijuana is illegal, especially if you already have a clearance and were briefed.
  • Guideline E (Personal Conduct): All males are required to register for the Selective Service when they turn 18 year of age. Failure to do so before the 26th birthday renders one ineligible for a security clearance or civil service employment.
  • Guideline D (Sexual Behavior): Viewing pornography at work. Even if you weren’t specifically told by your employer when hired, this practice is prohibited in the workplace and anyone who thinks otherwise is delusional.
  • Guideline K (Handling Protected Information): Violating security procedures by bringing cellphones or other audio recording equipment into secure classified workplaces is a big non-no, especially since those granted access are briefed and trained on the rules.

Good judgment, reliability and trustworthiness are character traits for being a “good” security risk. Making bad choices, an inability to exercise rational control over impulsive behavior, and failing to follow rules is a “bad” security risk. Ignorance of the law or rules cannot be used to mitigate issues. When doubts exist about an individual’s character, the decision whether to grant or deny access to classified information will always be resolved in favor of national security.


  1. I believe that I read that you can apply for a waiver on Selectiver Service registation (if your 26th birthday has passed) and it is at the discretion of the agency to grant the waiver.

  2. From SSS:
    Pursuant to federal law, a person required to register with Selective Service, but who failed to register, may not be denied any federal right or benefit if he can show by a preponderance of the evidence (e.g. more-likely-than-not) that his failure to register was not knowing and willful . See 50 U.S.C. 3811(g). The final decision regarding a non-registrant’s eligibility for employment lies with the department or agency granting the right or benefit.

    Good luck proving that though.

    I didn’t even know about selective service, until I was looking at some SF86 forms in my early 20s…
    When I called the US embassy at the time, they didn’t even know what it was (maybe because they were women).
    I registered just in time…

  3. I’ve got a lot of stories about the excuses I’ve heard over the years about why Jim Bob did not register with SSS; or why Joe Apple says he doesn’t have to register because he doesn’t believe in the military. The nut comes off the bolt with that section.