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:

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. 

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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 www.bigleylaw.com