According to recent news reports, – the infamous facilitator of extramarital affairs – recently crossed 52 million members.

That number is incredible on its face, but even more so in light of the massive 2015 hacking attack that publicly exposed the website’s member identities online. If having an extramarital affair wasn’t already risky business, who on earth would do so knowing that their salacious desires can be exposed to the world by any hacker with the skill and inclination?

Apparently, a whole lot of people.

That begs the question: how many of these 52 million adulterous souls hold a security clearance? For that matter, how many of them wield power over things like U.S. national security policy?

We can never know for sure, but certainly it is not an insignificant number. After all, clearance holders – no matter where they rank in the hierarchy of government – are subject to the same temptations and weaknesses that afflict the broader population. I see it all the time with drugs, alcohol abuse, and similar issues of impulse control.

It strikes me that in this age of continuous evaluation and social media monitoring, websites like Ashley Madison make a ripe target for agencies like the NSA. It would not surprise me in the slightest if we start to see “Ashley Madison cases” popping up soon as security clearance denials. Such cases would be a natural extension of existing intelligence community (IC) personnel security efforts; as I recently reported, traditional “dating websites” are already being searched by the IC as part of their online monitoring of security clearance holders.

That’s because one of the chief concerns in any security clearance case is blackmail potential – and few things are more well-suited to blackmail by a foreign intelligence service than an illicit extra-marital affair.

It’s also entirely possible that polygraph examinations may soon incorporate specific questions on whether a clearance holder belongs to Ashley Madison or a similar website. We’re already seeing counter-intelligence (CI) polygraph examinations that explicitly ask about the applicant’s viewing of, or involvement with, websites like Wiki-leaks.

In light of these issues, I strongly advise security clearance holders against tempting fate with an illicit affair. Marriage therapy, spiritual guidance, or, worst case scenario, divorce court, are all better options.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 

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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