Those who think the worst thing that happens to them when they lie on an SF-86 (security clearance questionnaire) is clearance denial or loss of job need to reexamine the prelude to the form itself.
It unequivocally states:
Penalties for Inaccurate or False Statements
The U.S. Criminal Code (title 18, section 1001) provides that knowingly falsifying or concealing a material fact is a felony which may result in fines and/or up to five (5)years imprisonment. In addition, Federal agencies generally fire, do not grant a security clearance, or disqualify individuals who have materially and deliberately falsified these forms, and this remains a part of the permanent record for future placements. Your prospects of placement or security clearance are better if you answer all questions truthfully and completely. You will have adequate opportunity to explain any information you provide on this form and to make your comments part of the record.
In case you might have missed that little warning, it appears for you again right above where you sign your name attesting the information you just disclosed is true or known to be true.
My statements on this form, and on any attachments to it, are true, complete, and correct to the best of my knowledge and belief and are made in good faith. I further affirm that, to the best of my knowledge, I have not included any classified information herein. I have carefully read the foregoing instructions to complete this form. I understand that a knowing and willful false statement on this form can be punished by fine or imprisonment or both (18 U.S.C. 1001). I understand that intentionally withholding, misrepresenting, falsifying, or including classified information may have a negative effect on my security clearance, employment prospects, or job status, up to and including denial or revocation of my security clearance, or my removal and debarment from Federal service.
Last week, a federal judge in Pennsylvania sentenced Fred Arena to six months in prison for not disclosing on his SF-86 in 2019 the important detail that he was heavily involved with Vanguard, a white nationalist group. Arena, who according to his indictment, had six different aliases, yet no prior criminal record – an odd mixture of facts. Many of those aliases were believed to be contrived during his involvement with Vanguard proven by social media content and conversations with FBI informants.
Arena was applying for a security clearance due to his job as a contract safety worker in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. He also failed to disclose, as an added offense, the fact that he had his car repossessed in the recent months leading up the interview. It is unclear as to how the information about Arena became known to FBI investigators, but when it did, the SF-86 false statements became a basis on charging Arena, regardless of other evidence found against him. Arena, who pled guilty to the offense, noted at the time of the SF-86 filing that he was no longer in Vanguard, and lied because he was living out his of his car and badly needed a job. Arena’s conviction/sentencing is the latest in a rather regular line of SF-86 false statement cases.