Advice from the general counsel
Security Clearance Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials and revocations. He is a former investigator for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com.
It is becoming an almost regular morning routine in my house: wake-up, eat breakfast, and read about today’s new Secret Service scandal. The most recent revelation? That dozens of Uniformed Division Officers have been working at the White House for months without security clearances.
Dozens of Un-cleared Agents in the White House
The Secret Service has declined to provide a description of the types of classified information to which these individuals had access. One can assume, however, that it included information about threats against the president and security counter-measures at the White House. The agency effectively authorized dozens of un-cleared, gun-toting people carte blanche access to the most secure building in America.
Amazingly, this became an actionable problem for the Secret Service only after a whistle-blower came forward. That whistleblower noted that un-cleared agents were sitting in on classified meetings. Even more fascinating is the agency’s assurance to Congress that the mess will be cleaned up – by issuing all these officers security clearances – within a week. No doubt those will be thorough investigations.
A clearance backlog problem
A Secret Service spokesman blamed the problem on an “administrative backlog” from the agency’s recent hiring rush after multiple fence jumping incidents. It is true that the cleared workforce is shrinking – thanks to a more than 12 percent reduction in the size of the cleared workforce, more agencies are having to issue new clearances rather than hire already-cleared employees. And secret service agents are required to have top secret security clearances and polygraph examinations – that process can take up to 12-months (although interim clearances can be processed much faster). But the fact that four or five dozen un-cleared employees were at work and given access to classified information is troubling, to say the least.
How to Build a Bad Reputation and Demotivate Your Workforce
What is sad to me is that lack of managerial oversight is tarnishing the reputations of the agency’s many exceptional line employees. These are men and women who perform difficult, exhausting, and largely thankless jobs. Many of them routinely put their lives on the line in service to our country, not to mention miss family events, holidays, and other milestones because of shift work.
Most of the time, the work is nothing like the movies. As any Agent or Officer can tell you, there is nothing glamorous about standing post in a stairwell or working a metal detector for eight hours, day after day. The especially grueling schedule for those on the presidential detail leads to high rates of divorce, alcoholism, and stress burnout. I’ve seen it firsthand.
Hopefully this latest scandal – another one with the potential to put the president and national security at risk – will be a wake up call.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.