Four Coworker Red Flags and How to Report Them

Government

When people have access to government information, facilities, personnel, and systems, risk mitigation is crucial. Manning, Alexis and Snowden prompted policy change on insider threats for security clearance holders. Congress and the White House decried the need for better vetting, and more steps to protect classified information from the inside.

Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD) 3, one component of President Obama’s Insider Threat Program, was signed off on December 14, 2016 and will be implemented June 12, 2017. SEAD 3 aligns and standardizes reporting requirements for handling and protecting reported information for all cleared personnel and compliance with the minimum reporting requirements. Failure to comply may cost you your security clearance. Any adverse information found needs to be reported on all covered individuals.

Your cleared workplace is now like being at the airport. “If you see something, say something” is now cleared workplace law. It’s normal to feel awkward about narking on your coworkers, but it doesn’t pay to be silent when something appears abnormal. One can imagine a few of Snowden’s former NSA coworkers have a lot of regret about suspicious behaviors (like asking for their passwords) they didn’t report.

Before you become paranoid about everything, here are four major things to pay attention to in the cleared work environment:

Substance abuse.

We’re not talking about the coworker who gets a squeak too happy at happy hour or the company parties. We’re talking about the coworker who has real signs of an addiction – the coworker who arrives at work intoxicated or has a secret stash of alcohol or drugs at the desk or in the car. Real substance abuse is a potential security risk.

Illegal Behavior.

The average cleared employee is nervous about any impact on their clearance. If one of your coworkers is engaging in fraudulent or criminal behavior, this should be a clear red flag to you – no matter how minor the infraction.

Major Money Changes.

Sudden money woes or large unexplainable purchases could make one of your coworkers an insider target, or be an exhibition of risky behavior. Sometimes grandma leaves her grandson a large amount of money, but if one of your coworkers is starting to receive inheritance funds from multiple relatives, it’s not paranoia to question the stories.

Nosey Behavior.

A clearance doesn’t equal access to all classified material. Coworkers that have an interest in classified materials not necessary to an assignment could be involved in activities related to espionage. Monitor requests for information that are out of the ordinary.

Just because you see something borderline suspicious one day, it doesn’t mean you need to run immediately to your Facility Security Officer (FSO). However, you do want to carefully ask questions when necessary, and track patterns. An employee who consistently exhibits suspicious behavior should be reported to your FSO. It’s their job to get to the bottom of any issues. Thanks to SEAD 3, it’s now your job to report it.

Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.

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