NEWS + ADVICE
Sexual Behavior That Can Make Trouble for Your Security Clearance
If you want to maintain your ability to have a cleared career, it’s important to understand the government’s Adjudicative Guidelines. There are 13 guidelines, or criteria, used to determine eligibility for a security clearance, one of which includes sexual behavior.
Sexual behavior as a security clearance concern is maybe the most sensational of the Adjudicative Guidelines. However, it’s one of the issues that is seen far less frequently than financial or drug-related problems. Let’s take a closer look at Guideline D to find out what it means for clearance holders.
Guideline D: Sexual Behavior
Guideline D is the section of the Adjudicative Guidelines that references sexual behavior. Some behaviors that you may think of as sexual misconduct, such as sexual harassment or watching porn at work, are typically issues that ultimately also fall under different Adjudicative Guidelines.
The Adjudicative Guidelines regarding sex were extensively revised in 1992 to eliminate someone being turned down for engaging in activities such as transvestism, sodomy or promiscuous behavior. Despite those changes, it still matters if behaviors are considered to be high-risk, destructive, criminal (whether or not you get caught), in public, make you open to coercion, or simply show poor judgment in general. Any evaluation can be influenced by the beliefs of individual adjudicators – we are all human after all.
Why does it matter?
Beyond behaviors that are illegal, this behavior matters because the government is concerned that you could be susceptible to blackmail or coercion if the behavior isn’t widely known. Meaning you could be blackmailed into disclosing classified information if you’re under the threat of exposure.
Another concern is that it reflects a lack of judgment or discretion, meaning you may lack that quality in other parts of your life too, including safeguarding classified info.
Finally, if you’ve engaged in, or you’re currently engaging in, any of these behaviors, the concern is you may not be able to stop. Addictive behaviors are a challenge, no matter the addiction.
From the Guideline:
The Concern. Sexual behavior that involves a criminal offense; reflects a lack of judgment or discretion; or may subject the individual to undue influence of coercion, exploitation, or duress. These issues, together or individually, may raise questions about an individual’s judgment, reliability, trustworthiness, and ability to protect classified or sensitive information. Sexual behavior includes conduct occurring in person or via audio, visual, electronic, or written transmission. No adverse inference concerning the standards in this Guideline may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.
What can get you in trouble?
There’s a whole host of things that can potentially get you in hot water, including repeatedly soliciting prostitutes when you’re overseas, getting massages with happy endings, or cheating on your spouse with a co-worker.
From the Guideline:
Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:
(a) sexual behavior of a criminal nature, whether or not the individual has been prosecuted;
(b) a pattern of compulsive, self-destructive, or high-risk sexual behavior that the individual is unable to stop;
(c) sexual behavior that causes an individual to be vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or duress; and
(d) sexual behavior of a public nature or that reflects lack of discretion or judgment.
How do they find out?
There are no specific questions on an SF86 related to sexual behavior, but these behaviors may arise in areas of your SF86 if you have:
- Felony charges or convictions for things such as sexual assault, child pornography, engaging in sexual acts in a public place, or indecent exposure
- Misused information technology such as viewing porn at work
- Prior divorces where the divorce is due to infidelity by you
On a poly exam, it may come up if you are:
- Accessing dating sites to engage in frequent sexual activity
- Using webcams to engage in frequent sexual activity
- Uploading sexually explicit material to the internet
Though none of the latter is criminal behavior, it may be viewed as a pattern of compulsive or high-risk sexual behavior that you’re unable to curb.
How do you ease their fears?
If your actions were long ago, that’s in your favor. Depending on the behavior, if it was strictly private, consensual and discreet, that’s a positive too.
Distancing yourself further through mitigating actions is also a good tactic. If you’ve had issues, the involvement of a mental health professional can do wonders to assist your case if you comply with their treatment recommendations. “In fact, simply taking an online course pertaining to the negative impact of prostitution can provide additional mitigation and may be the piece of evidence that pushes the decision in your favor.”1
From the Guideline:
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:
(a) the behavior occurred prior to or during adolescence and there is no evidence of subsequent conduct of a similar nature;
(b) the sexual behavior happened so long ago, so infrequently, or under such unusual circumstances, that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual’s current reliability, trustworthiness, or judgment;
(c) the behavior no longer serves as a basis for coercion, exploitation, or duress;
(d) the sexual behavior is strictly private, consensual, and discreet; and
(e) the individual has successfully completed an appropriate program of treatment, or is currently enrolled in one, has demonstrated ongoing and consistent compliance with the treatment plan, and/or has received a favorable prognosis from a qualified mental health professional indicating the behavior is readily controllable with treatment.
What should you do?
Some FSOs talk about the importance of transparency and having conversations. Others will suggest that you communicate any issues to them only in writing, so there is a written record of the information you’re providing.
Before doing any of that though, you may want to contact a security clearance representation attorney for advice on steps you should take, such as potential mitigating factors, and what order to take them in. This is your career after all, so that investment and advice is probably worth it.
Find more articles about safeguarding your security clearance here.