When the Capitol Hill riots took a dangerous and unlawful turn this week, questions began to arise concerning what negative repercussions may face attendees of the riot or those who breached the Capitol grounds. As photos spread, some faced criminal charges, and others were immediately laid off by their employers. What remains uncertain is if any of them are active security clearance holders, and if anyone could lose their security clearance or national security job in response to their participation.

When it comes to security clearance concerns related to the riots, there are two major factors at play: Allegiance to the United States and Criminal Conduct.

Working in national security is one of the few careers where you may find yourself being asked: ‘”Have you ever advocated (either directly or indirectly) the overthrow of any government by force or violence?” Even the average security clearance holder probably doesn’t meditate often on the question, but you should be prepared to answer it if you have an active clearance, potentially in the course of a polygraph examination.

The Allegiance to the United States adjudicative criteria is rarely used to deny a security clearance. In fact, among 2020 security clearance denials, Allegiance to the United States was never once used in a security clearance denial. For those attending the Capitol Hill protests, a security clearance denial based on the Allegiance to the United States adjudicative criteria would have to prove that the individual was attempting to or desired to overthrow the U.S. government in their actions. That is a difficult burden to prove, and a big reason why you don’t see it frequently referenced in clearance denials.

Capitol Breach = Criminal Conduct

The bigger issue and more likely cause of security clearance denial or revocation would be criminal conduct. As we’ve previously discussed at ClearanceJobs.com, security clearance holders don’t check their first amendment rights at the door. An individual can peacefully protest for a variety of causes, even if they work for the government or have a security clearance. The greater issue is when a protest turns from peaceful to criminal in nature, which is what happened this week. An arrest, even for a misdemeanor, can cause security clearance issues.

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Lindy Kyzer is the editor of ClearanceJobs.com. She loves the NISPPAC, social media, and the U.S. military. Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email lindy.kyzer@clearancejobs.com. Interested in writing for ClearanceJobs.com? Learn more here.