Security Clearance Denial

Leaking Classified Information Leads to Termination of Air Force Civilian

One of the quickest ways to lose your security clearance is to leak classified information to someone who does not have a security clearance or the “need to know.” A Department of the Air Force civilian employee found this out the hard way. After sending two emails containing classified information on an unclassified network to unauthorized recipients, the employee was fired and his clearance was revoked.

After his termination, the former Air Force employee submitted an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) arguing that his disclosure fell under the protection of the Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of 1989. The MPSB appeals judge in this case rightfully pointed out that the employee had violated national security regulations and procedures. Therefore, he had no expectation of protection under the WPA. Additionally, MSPB case precedence (Department of the Navy vs Egan) states the MSPB has no authority to assess the propriety of national security clearance determinations and may only consider whether due process was given.

It was not clear from reading the MSPB case summary whether or not this AF civilian appealed his security clearance revocation. Given the egregiousness of the offense, I imagine it would have been a complete waste of time to even try. The adjudicative guidelines for handling protected information are pretty straightforward; deliberately leaking classified information is a serious issue and very difficult to mitigate. The focus on preventing insider threats and foreign espionage is especially high with the recent slew of high profile cases involving unauthorized disclosure of classified information. For those interested, the National Insider Threat Task Force has designated September as Insider Threat Awareness Month and released a packet of resources for agencies to use within their own communities.