In the latest installment of ‘how to lose your security clearance – D.C.-edition’ a Defense Information Systems Agency employee was charged this month for threatening to kill a member of congress for sponsoring a bill requiring public school children to be vaccinated. Darryl Albert Varnum, a “senior cyber systems engineer,” according to a LinkedIn profile believed to belonging to the accused, phoned the Florida office of Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.). The profanity-laced voicemail includes the kind of language we don’t publish here at ClearanceJobs.com, including multiple threats against Rep. Wilson’s life and even taunts that he hoped the CIA and FBI would hear his message.
Varnum had previously posted on his Facebook page about the ‘Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019,’ comparing it to the Holocaust – a common refrain used among the extreme anti-vaxxer movement.
The incident would be bizarre for anyone, let alone an individual working inside a government facility. It’s unclear if Varnum had an active federal security clearance, but it’s certainly probable. The case has eerie similarities to the Aaron Alexis case. Varnum, like Alexis, appears to have an earlier incident involving alcohol, firearms, and paranoia.
In 2015 police were called to Varnum’s home after his wife called police. Varnum was intoxicated in his garage with a rifle, claiming militants were after him. The police report notes he was cooperative and was transported to a mental health facility for treatment.
Insider Threat Case Study
The high profile threat against a congresswoman may be a blessing in disguise, elevating the visibility and necessitating action to remove Varnum from a position of public trust, if the charges prove true. There is a reason the ‘police record’ section of the SF-86 specifically calls out police incidents involving domestic violence, firearms or explosives, and alcohol or drugs. In a realm where good judgment is key, issues involving firearms, drugs or alcohol and domestic disputes place a particular microscope on an individual’s stability and mental health.
Again, it’s unclear if Varnum held a security clearance. But as a DISA employee he would have been vetted through a suitability check, at a minimum. If Varnum held a Secret security clearance and was not enrolled in continuous evaluation, it’s possible his 2015 incident occurred after he had completed his SF-86. It would be unclear if Varnum would have self-reported the issue, or if the government was even aware.
Having read the transcript of Varnum’s statement, it seems likely there were other red flags that may have been apparent to coworkers or supervisors. Threatening behavior – whether in person or online – should be addressed. Even if it’s not a security and suitability issue, there are judgment issues at play. Can you have strong opinions that are in disagreement with the federal government? Absolutely. Should you need to make threatening statements to try to make your point? Absolutely not.