To keep my current awareness of Industrial Security Clearance Review hearing results from waning, I recently decided to read every word of the last 100 decisions over the past weekend. Sometimes, I think my judgment as to what constitutes a leisurely activity is about as bad as General Custer’s military strategy.

Debt is a Key Factor in Clearance Decisions

Some interesting surface statistics were found. Out of the 100 most recent decisions, 51 involved general debt, 10 tax debt, and three were multiple reasons to include debt. The math says 64 of the 100 past decisions were debt related.  In the substance abuse category, 11 decisions were multiple controlled substance based, nine were marijuana only, and three decisions involved alcohol abuse. Of the final 15 reasons for adjudication, sexual misconduct, personal behavior and foreign influence made up four each and one was for prior security violations.

Looking deeper into the facts, I managed to create some unscientific findings. What I found particularly insightful were adjudications of debt issues were ruled favorably for the applicant in 11 cases. This was due to a couple of scenarios. Mainly, the debt incurred was either a “one off” such as a huge amount of medical bills and the debt was successfully managed or erased as part of a mitigation strategy. Almost all of the cases involving student loan debt were not successfully managed or mitigated by the applicant and clearance was denied. Without digging deeper into the mind of the delinquent borrower, it is difficult to tell if they were riding on the hopes of the student loan being forgiven thus not managing it punctually, although that crossed my mind as a plausible partial theory. Two of the foreign influence cases were adjudicated in favor of the applicant as the influence had either been removed from their life or posed no real threat to national security.

Marijuana and the Clearance Holder

Another thought-provoking result from the research showed two of the ten multiple controlled substance results were adjudicated in favor of the applicant, but only one of nine marijuana only use cases were ruled that way.  Most of the marijuana users were chronic, several resided in or have resided in states where it was legalized in some way or another, and a majority of them gave little to no indication they were going to stop anytime soon. It was almost as if I was reading the same exact findings in many of the cases. As you can imagine, the adjudicator’s job was made easy due to the current guidance. As to the marijuana usage, are applicants foregoing giving up their lifestyle in hopes the law will change soon if the MORE act passes? Again, a plausible theory, in my opinion. To really grasp whether this is a real mindset, one would need to delve into more marijuana cases from three or four years ago when the potential law change was a pipe dream (pun intended).

Stay tuned for appellate decisions in the coming month to catch the trends.


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Joe Jabara, JD, is the Director, of the Hub, For Cyber Education and Awareness, Wichita State University. He also serves as an adjunct faculty at two other universities teaching Intelligence and Cyber Law. Prior to his current job, he served 30 years in the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Kansas Air National Guard. His last ten years were spent in command/leadership positions, the bulk of which were at the 184th Intelligence Wing as Vice Commander.