There’s a new trend that keeps popping up in headlines – toxic positivity. And it seems to have affected some security clearance applicants, who don’t seem to realize how the significant issues in their background may make security clearance eligibility a major hurdle. Is it a lack of self-awareness? Or more likely a failure to understand the adjudicative guidelines?

One ClearanceJobsBlog subscriber was curious:

“Is it just me or are we seeing a lot of cases, at least in the DOHA appeal write ups that make you ask why that person even tried for a clearance, much less appealed?

From the military officer who was stealing luggage in his off time, the money launderer, person who made a “typo” of saying they worked for the FBI and NASA…”

Bad habits lead to security clearance denial

Here are a few cases from the ClearanceJobsBlog where you will scratch your head and wonder, “just what were they thinking?”

The luggage thief whose clearance was denied: Marko Hakamma walks us through a DOHA case where an individual was caught on airport video surveillance stealing luggage…and not for money, evidently, because they made over $287,000 per the IRS the year before. It appears the applicant was a thrill seeker who simply enjoyed picking up someone else’s bags at the airport. (We’re not going to speculate on what he did with the contents). But a security clearance holder, of all people, should understand that an airport is no place for fun and games. What may just seem like petty theft becomes a felony when a federal facility becomes the location of choice.

In this example, the applicant was charged with four felony counts of theft for his luggage stealing habit. Hope it was worth the thrill of taking another person’s suitcase.

Not only was his clearance denied, but that denial was held up on appeal – credibility and trustworthiness are hard to prove when you’re committing felonies while holding a government job.

It’s always worth noting that skeletons in your closet are nothing that should keep you from applying for a security clearance. Passage of time can mitigate some pretty egregious offenses. But once you’re given that golden ticket, the standard changes. Don’t expect to keep your creepy habits – especially the ones involving a federal offense.


Much about the clearance process resembles the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.” This case-by-case system is meant to consider the whole person, increase process security, and allow the lowest-risk/highest-need candidates to complete the process. However, it also creates a  lot of questions for applicants. For this reason, we maintain – a forum where clearance seekers can ask the cleared community for advice on their specific security concerns. Ask CJ explores questions posed  on the ClearanceJobs Blog forum, emails received, and comments from this site.

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Katie Helbling is a marketing fanatic that enjoys anything digital, communications, promotions & events. She has 10+ years in the DoD supporting multiple contractors with recruitment strategy, staffing augmentation, marketing, & communications. Favorite type of beer: IPA. Fave hike: the Grouse Grind, Vancouver, BC. Fave social platform: ClearanceJobs! 🇺🇸