The vast majority of security clearance denial and revocation cases are quite boring. With financial reasons topping the list of issues for clearance applicants, it’s common to read about defaulted student loans and credit issues. But every once in awhile you come across a case that leaves you staring at the text and asking, ‘what in the world?’
An appeal from July is also a reminder of why sexual behavior remains an adjudicative criteria.
True or False: It’s the 21st Century. Sexual Behavior is only used to deny a security clearance when criminal conduct is involved.
In the debate over whether the current adjudicative guidelines are necessary, the relevance of sexual behavior often comes up. We certainly live in a much more sexually progressive era than when the guidelines were written, and things that may have been the subject of blackmail or coercion previously are widely accepted today. But in perusing the 2021 security clearance denials and revocations I’ve found at least a couple of cases where sexual behavior was a key issue in the denial – and criminal conduct was not.
Take the case of the serial upskirter.
The applicant was a defense contractor who had previously served in the U.S. military and attended a service academy. Married with children, he also had previous security clearance issues and a suspension from 2006-2009 – prior to his current revocation.
In 2006, while on active duty, the applicant was arrested at a U.S. airport for ‘upskirting’ – the practice of secretly filming women by placing a camcorder up their dresses. Additional footage was found on the applicant’s phone and he admitted to the misconduct, was found guilty, but eventually had the charges dismissed after completing probation.
Despite admitting to the illegal and disgusting behavior, the applicant was able to favorably remain in uniform and retained his security clearance eligibility following his probation.
Fast forward 10 years (and a full decade of upskirting, most likely), and the applicant was in the same location where a man was discovered upskirting women in a department store. He was not detained at the time but security footage posted online resulted in more than 100 friends, associates and coworkers identifying the applicant as the man in the picture. Criminal charges were dismissed by the prosecution, and the applicant denies it was him.
Just as during his military service, the applicant consulted a mental health professional who stated he has ‘no need for continued therapy.’ The applicant had taken significant measures to try to hide his initial upskirting activity, but noted that in the case of the 2017 incident, his wife believed he was the person despite his denials.
False: Even if criminal charges are thrown out – or nonexistent – sexual behavior can be a clearance killer.
Reading the case, one wonders who in the heck thought the applicant should ever have access to classified information – or be able to obtain work in the defense industry. The only thing worse than being a serial upskirter is doing so while finding a mental health professional say there is nothing wrong with you – you just like staring at ladies’ underpants against their will. It’s also appalling to think the individual was able to maintain an honorable military record while he likely continued his upskirting violations across military facilities and areas he visited.
There will always be arguments around whether a sexual proclivity actually correlates to security concerns. But in this case the applicant clearly is willing to violate the privacy and personhood of those around him. Not only that, but he appears to suffer some delusional disorder, as well – believing he is above the law, above reproach, and able to deny his actions even with his wife and 100 other witnesses pointing the finger. The DOHA judge found the applicant’s ‘reprehensible’ and the adverse decision was affirmed.