Security Clearance Adjudicators Overruled by Politics

Security clearance adjudicators are trained to review background investigations, apply adjudicative guidelines and criteria, and make a decision as to whether granting an individual eligibility for a clearance is in compliance with the guidelines and in the interest of national security. New adjudicators undergo extensive on the job training with their work reviewed by supervisors. Experienced adjudicators have reviewed hundreds to thousands of cases, evaluating information so outrageous the material could probably be made into a best-selling book.

However, despite adjudicators possessing this vast wealth of knowledge and experience in security clearance processes, it seems higher level managers who are not adjudicators weigh in on decisions affecting higher-profile applicants and political appointees. It is perfectly understandable that security managers be kept in the loop on these types of cases since they will be the one to answer to questions or inquiries, but as noted in the recent news regarding the White House Security Specialist who filed for Whistleblower protections, when they ignore an adjudicator’s recommended course of action and overrule their decisions based on political expediency, it negates the entire clearance process and creates a double standard.

A fundamental legal principle in personnel security is that access to classified information is a privilege, not a right, and no one has a right to a security clearance. As such, the government is required to follow its own rules so that any decision to deny is made through a reasonable and unbiased process. Executive Order 12968 states that an adjudicative determination “is a discretionary security decision based on judgments by appropriately trained adjudicative personnel.” This principle is integral in ensuring a double standard is not established for certain applicants based on position or politics.