We’ve all heard the post 9/11 refrain, “If you see something, say something”, within the context of public transit, large events, or other potential terrorist targets.
But what if the something you see is a cleared colleague whose behavior gives cause for alarm? Saying something to security officials might be the safe move, yet some clearance holders hesitate for fear of alienating colleagues or “getting involved” in someone else’s business. Life is complicated enough already, right?
As it turns out, clearance holders who find themselves in such a situation may not have a choice. Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD)-3 imposes a requirement on clearance holders government-wide to “alert their agency heads or designees to the following reportable activities of other [clearance holders] that may be of potential security or counterintelligence concern:
- An unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations or to cooperate with security requirements
- Alcohol abuse
- Illegal use or misuse of drugs or drug activity
- Apparent or suspected mental health issues where there is reason to believe it may impact the clearance holder’s ability to protect classified information or other information specifically prohibited by law from disclosure
- Criminal conduct
- Any activity that raises doubts as to whether another clearance holder’s continued national security eligibility is clearly consistent with the interests of national security
- Misuse of U.S. Government property or information systems
Much like the national adjudicative guidelines for security clearances themselves, these criteria are broadly written to encompass almost anything that could be deemed to present a security or counterintelligence concern. The idea is presumably to encourage application of the “see something, say something” mentality to the cleared workplace. By making it a requirement to report cleared colleagues engaged in concerning behavior, SEAD-3 removes the stigma of being a “rat” – at least in theory – but it also raises other questions. For example, can a clearance holder who fails to report a cleared colleague, as required, be punished?
We’ve yet to see a case like that, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for the right set of facts. When in doubt, the exercise of common sense and reasonableness – whatever course of action it dictates – should help inoculate a clearance holder against blowback. But posing the situation of concern to security officials as a hypothetical, devoid of names, may be a better idea. Put the onus on them to tell you whether or not they want you to fill in the fact pattern with names and details.
This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation.