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Lies and Security Clearances: How Could This Happen?

Posted by TC Mitchell

Recently in the headlines, a story of a high-ranking government employee was found to have made exaggerated claims about her professional career. It seems that this person had “souped up” her credentials both inside and outside the federal government to obtain her position. So far this only amounts to an inflated resume. But for security clearance purposes, it could be considered as a full untruth or fraudulent behavior. While it hasn’t been confirmed this person holds a security clearance, it isn’t a stretch.

So how could this person get so deep in the federal system and just now be discovered to have background issues? You are probably thinking that most applicants are thoroughly investigated and painstakingly scrutinized before even getting into office, let alone to reach that kind of level. 

Interesting because yes, a background investigation includes a review and recounting of a person’s background, based on Public Records, Subject Testimony and Written Record on the EQIP. An applicant’s recorded history is supposed to be checked for accuracy in education, prior residences, and work history, among others. The investigative standard includes the requirement that all information is to be corroborated through family members, but most importantly neighbors and work or school colleagues that are not bound by affection or other loyalties, as well as other records and paper trails of their existence on earth.

Once an investigator has your EQIP, the process to determine its reliability begins and the information is either substantiated or refuted. At the subject interview you, the subject, are confronted with this information. And although it has not been confirmed if this person had a clearance, the background process for hiring is still pretty thorough in and of itself.

So HOW did this person get so far into the system with all of the untruths?

SIMPLE, being well-connected. 

She was recommended for a position by a high-ranking official, and that official’s clout and credibility goes a LONG WAY, assuming the candidate meets the pre-requisites and qualifications. A strong referral is trusted and can at least get you started in the position based on the trustworthiness of the referral. So rather than wait the full 6-month period or better for vetting her background, career and resume, she was waived to begin work on lesser but required background criteria.

Clearly, there must have been some real connections that recommended her as well, as her basic character and reputation were found trustworthy to enter her position prior to the completed background investigation. The interesting thing, however, is that once a person has been found to have been deceptive in the smallest of matters, it triggers that all areas of their life be reviewed.  

It is not atypical for a person to begin working on the job, while the security clearance and background are being evaluated and adjudicated. There was probably enough credibility for her to begin work early, and that is why within 6 months, she was pulled from the position. 

As a person holding a security clearance, you’re going to have to expect that your life is now going to be completely scrutinized. At a minimum one could lose a job and their security clearance for life for a lack of honesty and forthrightness. This is always the rule when it comes to working in cleared spaces: The government deems you trustworthy, the government deemed you suitable to handle certain levels of protected information and that you are trustworthy to work within the cleared environment.

Lying is not an option. Faking who you are is also not an option.

I have always told various clients and or employees as a security officer, the best thing you can do is tell a security officer the truth because in most cases they will be an ally to you. Especially if you have made an unintentional mistake.

In this case referenced, the picture being painted is that these were intentional fabrications, which means that the subject did not come forward to a government security officer (or company security officer) to express any wrongdoing to self-report the behavior. It’s very disconcerting that a person can get to her level in our federal government solely based on references and not be properly vetted. All security officers, government or private industry, are held to the same standards when deciding the risk of a new employee.

Being well-connected is certainly good for the career ladder if your goal is to climb, but connections will NEVER circumvent the requirement of national security measures of suitability and protection of the big picture, this nation. In fact, no office, position, agency, or person will be above the national interests of defense and protection. That is the ultimate mandate: To protect this nation’s interests, and the first line of defense is those doing the work of reviewing each person that needs access to protected information.

Needless to say, it is always best to be honest. Sometimes your dirtiest HONEST secret isn’t nearly as bad as lying about said dirty secret. No matter what the situation is, our national security program depends on honesty.

TC Mitchell

Security Consultant | Clearance Analyst | Federal Contractor Business Secrets Podcast | Washington, DC. Contact me at [email protected]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, November 26, 2019 4:02 pm

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