Many are aware of the Thirteen Adjudicative Guidelines of which security clearance decisions are made. For those not aware, the security clearance process begins, maintains, and continues with background investigations, observations, and adjudication decisions. When an employee is required to perform on a classified contract, the Facility Security Officer initiates a security clearance background investigation. When an employee performs on a classified contract, their security clearance privilege is in continuous evaluation. When a cleared employee is required to continue their clearance, the FSO submits a periodic reinvestigation request. These three security clearance states rely on the employee demonstrating their competency to protect classified information under the 13 Adjudicative Guidelines. This article is the first in a series of articles to describe each guideline.

Guideline A Allegiance to the United States

Under Guideline A, the employee bears the burden to clearly demonstrate unquestionable loyalty to the United States. After all, they will be in possession of sensitive information that could lead to varying levels of damage to national security if compromised.

Questionable Behavior

Under Guideline A, decisions are based on findings of disloyal activity, not on the applications words of faithfulness. There are many ways to demonstrate questionable loyalty that outweigh verbal declarations.  For example, you might think your neighbor’s daily flag raising ceremony is very patriotic and you may never question their loyalty. However, your discovery of their belonging to an organization sympathetic to America’s enemies may change your view. In light of their questionable associations, their reciting the Pledge of Allegiance every day is a nice gesture that is outweighed by their behavior.  In a security clearance investigation, these observations may cause a denial or revocation of a security clearance; no matter how much they protest their love of America. The risk that they may compromise classified information to support their potentially true allegiance is too great.

An example of a Guideline A violation could be joining an anti-America or other hate group demonstrating desire to attack, overthrow, sabotage, or otherwise cause harm to the American government or just supporting those who do. This “joining” could be as involved as participating in activities, attending meetings, or just “liking” a social media group run by a foreign or domestic terrorist organization.

Having a security clearance doesn’t mean you give up your right to free speech. Security clearance holders can still attend peaceful protests or engage in civil discourse. But, any activity needs to be done outside of work hours, and must not have any indication of overthrowing the government, threatening public officials, or violating the Hatch Act.

Currently, there are no security clearance decisions available on the DOHA website that are based on Guideline A violations. However, there are plenty of examples for Guidelines B and C (Foreign Influence and Foreign Preference). In other words, while Guideline A violations may be difficult to prove, the great probability of determining Guidelines B and C violations may be the next considerations to deny or revoke a security clearance. We will cover these cases in future installments.

Mitigating Circumstances

Some activities appearing to demonstrate lack of allegiance to the United States could be mitigated under certain circumstances. For example, the applicant might have contributed to an approved charitable organization and was unaware of the charity’s secret purpose of supporting enemies of the United States. Another example is that the applicant’s questionable activity was for a short period of time and occurred in the distant past.

A Concern for All

Those seeking to perform on classified contracts should expect scrutiny into their backgrounds based on the 13 guidelines. Allegiance to the United States is the first guideline and probably most weighted and for very good reasons. Both USA born and bred and naturalized citizens should equally be prepared to demonstrate unequivocal faithfulness to the country of their citizenship. The next article will address Guideline B, Foreign Influence.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP is a podcaster, consultant and author of NISPOM, security, and risk management topics. Jeff's first book was a study guide for security certification. Soon after, Jeff began writing other security books and courses, and started his company Red Bike Publishing, LLC. You can find his books, ITAR, NISPOM, PodCast and more @