Securing Your Security Clearance: Recent Successful Cases

THE CASES LISTED ON THIS PAGE DO NOT REPRESENT THE ENTIRE UNIVERSE OF CASES HANDLED BY MCADOO GORDON & ASSOCIATES, P.C. THE FIRM DOES NOT GUARANTEE OR PREDICT A SIMILAR RESULT IN ANY FUTURE CASE IT UNDERTAKES. CASE RESULTS DEPEND UPON A VARIETY OF FACTORS, WHICH ARE UNIQUE TO EACH INDIVIDUAL CASE. THE CASES DO SHOW THE WAY MCADOO GORDON & ASSOCIATES PREPARES AND PRESENTS CASES ON BEHALF OF OUR CLIENTS.

McAdoo Gordon & Associates regularly represents clients before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals and other adjudicative bodies that resolve security clearance cases for the military and intelligence community. Past clients include engineers and analysts seeking to protect or improve their positions with agencies and government contractors, corporate executives working to win government contracts involving sensitive information, former military personnel transitioning to the private sector, and former government staffers returning to public service. We have handled matters implicating each of the Guidelines for Determining Eligibility to Access Classified Information. The firm's recent successes include cases involving:

Guidelines F, J, and E: Financial Considerations, Criminal Conduct, and Personal Conduct

Guideline F recognizes that financial difficulties, such as unpaid debts or taxes, can raise concerns about "an individual's reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information." McAdoo Gordon & Associates recently helped a civilian employed by the military maintain her security clearance when a medical condition and a failure to receive child support payments raised questions about her financial stability. Evidence that the applicant had written a check backed by insufficient funds also threatened her security clearance under Guideline J, which makes both criminal offenses and allegations of criminal offenses potentially disqualifying. We demonstrated, however, that the applicant had not been personally at fault in incurring the debts she had accumulated, and that the check that she had bounced did not constitute a crime under the applicable state rubber check law. Clearance was granted.

Another applicant who had suffered from recent financial difficulties found her security clearance in jeopardy due to unpaid debts and a shoplifting incident from her youth. We at McAdoo Gordon & Associates mitigated both concerns, demonstrating that the applicant had incurred the debts due to reasons beyond her control and that the applicant's shoplifting had occurred so long ago that it was unlikely to recur and did not cast doubt on the applicant's trustworthiness. Clearance was granted.

McAdoo Gordon & Associates also assisted a key employee for a major defense contractor in gaining his first security clearance by mitigating the concerns over his delinquent debts. Unaware of some of his debts and disputing others in court, the applicant had failed to report them on his security clearance application, only to have the debts surface during an investigation. In addition to raising concerns under guideline F, these debts and the applicant's failure to report them raised concerns under Guideline E, which deals with personal conduct that reveals poor judgment, lack of candor, or dishonesty. The firm's effective advocacy resolved the concerns arising from the applicant's omission, pointing out not only that the applicant had settled his past due accounts, but also that some of the debts that he had failed to acknowledge arose, unbeknownst to him, from efforts to settle his father's estate. Clearance was granted.

The impact of outstanding debts on a security clearance application is common. Effective representation can be the difference in overcoming the problem.

Guidelines B and C: Foreign Influence and Foreign Preference

Guideline B subjects security clearance applicants to scrutiny for their contacts with, and interests in, foreign countries, particularly when those countries are "known to target United States citizens to obtain protected information and/or [are] associated with terrorism." With her father and grandmother living in a Persian Gulf state, a business analyst for a defense contractor found herself at risk of having a security clearance necessary for her promotion denied. To complicate matters, the applicant's use of a passport from the Persian Gulf state to visit her ailing father abroad raised concerns under Guideline C, which cautions that the "exercise of any right, privilege, or obligation of foreign citizenship after becoming a U.S. citizen" can be "disqualifying" for a security clearance. McAdoo Gordon & Associates marshaled the applicant's professional references and the facts of the applicant's story, including her mother's naturalization and her relinquishment of the foreign passport, to demonstrate that it was "unlikely that she could be exploited by coercive or non-coercive means. . . to choose between loyalty to her two family members and her loyalty to the United States."

Meanwhile, when a new marriage to a woman whose relatives still lived in a foreign country raised concerns about the security clearance of a former military officer employed by a leading defense firm, McAdoo Gordon & Associates successfully mitigated these concerns by pointing out how the officer's military service, including his time as a POW, established his clear allegiance to the United States. We also presented facts about the officer's relationship with his new wife's family to show that he would be free from "foreign influence." Because the officer could not speak the language of his new relatives, he had difficulty forming any ties with them. Even though his new wife's native country had a history of strained relations with United States, after one hearing, the officer regained his access to classified information and returned to effectively performing his duties.

Even connections to an ally of the United States can raise concerns about foreign influence and foreign preference.

A computer specialist, working in homeland security, faced the prospect of being disqualified for a security clearance due to his birth ties to a pro-U.S. nation in Asia. Family members residing in that nation, an ownership interest in real estate there, and regular use of that nation's passport gave rise to concerns under both Guidelines B and C. We at McAdoo Gordon & Associates gathered and presented evidence demonstrating that the computer specialist's "loyalty, financial interests, and family ties" were "centered in this U.S." To accomplish this, we conducted a valuation of the applicant's foreign real estate interest that placed it within the context of his considerably larger U.S. holdings. We also offered a careful analysis of how the computer specialist's family members lacked government or business connections that made him susceptible to industrial espionage. Clearance was granted.

Guideline M: Misuse of Information Technology Systems

Under Guideline M, any illegal, unauthorized, or negligent use of an information technology system can raise "security concerns about an individual's reliability and trustworthiness." Thus, an engineer found his security clearance at risk because his former employer had cited him for improper use of a computer when he inadvertently viewed pornographic material while checking his email. McAdoo Gordon & Associates demonstrated that this incident was inadvertent and unintended. We pointed out, too, that the incident was neither recent nor significant. After we mitigated additional claims under Guideline E, clearance was granted.