We tout the frequency of finances and lying resulting in security clearance denial, it’s easy to assume the other adjudicative criteria will never come up. But a recent security clearance denial highlights the importance of keeping Sexual Behavior as an adjudicative criteria. Because sexual behavior most often only comes up in relation to a criminal offense, it’s easy to think it is erroneous. But a recent security clearance denial displays the importance of considering sexual behavior in the security clearance process.
True or False: A security clearance can’t be denied based on an accusation.
In 2020, just six security clearance appeals cases cited sexual behavior as a cause of security clearance denial. The lack of sexual behavior as a primary factor in security clearance denial is one of many reasons many advocate removing sexual behavior as an adjudicative criteria. But every so often along comes a case that makes you grateful that sexual behavior is enough to warrant security clearance denial, regardless of whether an individual has been prosecuted.
An August Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) case was….complex. The applicant was a 48-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Kuwait. After marrying a U.S. citizen he met in Syria through an online dating service, he then joined the U.S. military, became a citizen, and got a divorce. Following his divorce, the applicant met more women through online dating services, including women from Morocco, Tunisia, Peru, and Thailand. He paid these women thousands of dollars, including his current wife who he paid as a dowry and other women who he ‘helped.’ He’s been married to his current wife since 2019.
According to DOHA, all of these payments don’t necessarily merit security clearance denial – the applicant could mitigate the potential security issues of paying foreign women thousands of dollars. What couldn’t be mitigated was an accusation of sexual abuse made by the granddaughter of an American girlfriend the applicant lived with in 2015 and 2016.
The applicant was accused of molesting his girlfriend’s granddaughter. While the accusation didn’t result in criminal prosecution due to the victim’s family not being willing for her to testify, the DOHA judge ruled that “the details of the case lend an aspect of believability.” It doesn’t matter if the accusations meet a bar of criminal prosecution. To the extent the DOHA judge believed the accusations to be likely, is enough to merit a clearance denial.
False: An accusation alone is enough to warrant clearance denial in some cases.
The ‘whole person’ concept generally works in an applicant’s favor. In this case, a pattern of giving women money and then a significant accusation of sexual misconduct is certainly enough to cast doubt on an individual’s reliability and trustworthiness. In this case, the DOHA judge noted he believe the accusations that were made against the accuser, and that even if they didn’t meet the bar required for prosecution doesn’t make them untrue. A DOHA judge can consider the merits of a case even if it didn’t result in criminal prosecution. The pattern of behavior (giving multiple international women, including two sisters in Tunisia thousands of dollars) indicates some element of sexual behavior that is clearly not what one should expect from a worker in the national security space.