I have recently received a number of inquiries from persons who have either been denied a security clearance or have had their clearances revoked by government officials on installations across the United States. The tenor of the conversations is almost always one of defeat. Persons who lose their clearances almost always believe that they have no power to fight back. Read on to learn about your rights when the government tries to take your clearance away.
Few things can be more intimidating than the prospect of fighting the United States Government regarding your security clearance. Contractors and federal employees who work for Government agencies depend on their security clearances for their livelihood. Loss of a clearance – or refusal to grant one in the first instance – can be a devastating and life-altering event. For most people, the prospect of taking on a federal agency about the revocation of a security clearance is a daunting one. Many believe that because an agency has revoked or denied a clearance, there is nothing they can do to fight back. After all, the agency knows best . . . right? WRONG!
The truth is that the decision to revoke or deny a security clearance is almost always made by persons who may be influenced by “workplace politics,” and personal issues or problems with an applicant. In some cases, decisions to revoke or deny a clearance have been based on an employee’s desire to disqualify a particular contractor because the employee does not like working with the contractor’s employees. The power vested in those making security clearance decisions is tremendous, and all too often the power is exercised for the wrong reasons, and having little to do with the established criteria governing these decisions.
Here’s what you need to know:
Decisions regarding security clearances are tremendously important and must be based on a fair, impartial, and commonsense review of all relevant information about an applicant. Instead of focusing on one perceived problem, a decision must be based on what has been termed the “whole person” concept. This review encompasses numerous factors that must be addressed by the government in making a decision regarding a clearance. The factors include such things as 1) the nature and seriousness of the alleged conduct, 2) the circumstances surrounding the conduct and the extent that such conduct was purposeful or intentional, 3) the timing of the conduct – was it recent? Did it happen more than once? 4) whether the applicant has taken rehabilitative steps to address underlying issues (such as drug use or accumulation of large debt), 5) the potential for exploitation or coercion in the future, and 6) the likelihood of recurrence.
The initial decision to revoke or deny a clearance is never the last one. An aggrieved worker can appeal an adverse decision to agency review boards whose job it is to impartially evaluate the decision. The question decided in all instances is whether it is “clearly consistent” with the national interest for a person to have access to secured information. The burden is on the government — not the employee – to produce admissible information on which the decision to revoke or deny clearance was based. Moreover, the government also bears the burden of proving all of the controverted facts to the review panel. The government can’t just make accusations – it has to prove them! Having a skilled national security clearance lawyer represent you at an appeals hearing can be the difference between winning and losing your clearance.
Even if the government satisfies its burden and produces sufficient evidence to back up the decision to revoke or deny a clearance, a person still has the ability to refute the case and to produce his/her own evidence in mitigation. This evidence can include: efforts at rehabilitation and making permanent changes in one’s life; evidence of bias or improper motive on the part of deciding officials; evidence that the decision to revoke or deny was based on impermissible considerations such as race, age, gender, sexual preference, or other irrelevant information; evidence of animus against the person by the deciding official or other employees at the affected agency; has the government been consistent with its process? Has the government granted clearance to the applicant or others in similar situations in the past?
The bottom line is that the denial or revocation of a national security clearance is too important to take lightly. Persons who have been denied a clearance or have had a clearance revoked should immediately speak with a qualified maryland security clearance lawyer and take all available measures to make sure that the government is playing by the rules. The security clearance lawyers at STSW can advise you with respect to your security clearance situation. Our lawyers are experienced at all phases of litigation – including administrative appeals and appeal hearings. Our lawyers include former military officers as well as former federal and state prosecutors. Many of our attorneys have been recognized by our peers as “Super Lawyers.” In fact, two STSW lawyers have been recognized as being in the “Top 50” lawyers in the State of Maryland.
If you have had your federal security clearance revoked or have been denied a clearance, call a security clearance lawyer at STSW. Make sure your rights are protected.