Information Used for Credibility Evaluations

When applicants receive a Statement of Reasons (SOR) intending to deny them eligibility for a security clearance it usually contains details of the disqualifying issues found in their background investigation and identifies the specific adjudicative guidelines they fall under (e.g., Guideline E: Personal Conduct). However, on appeal when an administrative judge is reviewing the case information, issues that are present but not outlined in the original SOR can be used to evaluate the applicant’s credibility. An example of this is noted in a recent Defense Office of Hearing an Appeals case in which the applicant contended the judge’s decision to deny her a clearance was in error due to relying on information not specifically addressed in the initial SOR.

Adjudicative decisions are based on the issues present versus established guidelines. Mitigating factors, to include evaluating the trustworthiness and credibility of the applicant is a part of the “whole person” concept. Information presented during the initial denial and appeal process, regardless of whether it was included in the written formal SOR notification, can be considered by the judge when considering an applicant’s credibility. In this case, for example, the applicant failed to disclose her drug use on the form and did not voluntarily bring it up until she was faced with taking a polygraph.

Even though the SOR did not specifically address the issue of a lack of candor under Guideline E, this issue was discussed during her initial appeal and therefore could be used by the judge in order to evaluate her credibility. Needless to say, her appeal was denied.