If you subscribe to the ‘different zip codes’ mentality (see the Urban Dictionary if you don’t know what I’m talking about), you may want to be careful if you also hold a security clearance. It’s true that polyamory isn’t illegal like polygamy, but being a womanizer can create security clearance exposure in other, unexpected ways.

The first potential problem is something we’ve covered previously in other contexts here at Clearancejobs: the very real possibility that women you’re meeting on dating apps aren’t the local variety. Believe it or not, I’ve seen cases over the years where “Sarah from Las Vegas” actually turned out to be “Svetlana from Moscow.” It’s not necessarily that this was a setup or “honeypot” situation, although at the risk of being paranoid, it’s worth remembering that those do happen. Rather, it’s often that these women are looking to escape their present circumstances and get to America. By the time you’ve figured out who they really are, you may have already crossed the very low threshold for self-reporting a foreign contact outlined in Security Executive Agent Directive 3.

Among other situations, this includes any foreign national with whom you’ve exchanged personal (non-public) information or had continuing contact. Explaining the context will likely avert security problems, but it’s still an uncomfortable conversation and not a particularly good look, especially if it happens more than once. Of course, this can also happen to someone looking for a real, monogamous relationship on dating apps, but consider every swipe like a game of Russian Roulette – pun intended. Like other activities in the dating world, the more you do it, the higher the risk.

The second issue is the potential for blackmail. A certain genre of photographs or homemade videos popular with the Casanova-types are particularly potent grounds for coercion, especially if you managed to also capture your face in the images. I’ve seen that too, although I insisted on not actually seeing that, and trust me: it’s really not a conversation you want to be having with your upper management. The same goes for a secret love-child, public or otherwise indiscreet sexual behavior, and any other dirty relationship laundry that a reasonable person might be perceived as going great lengths to keep quiet.

Finally, the third potential problem is one woman catching wind of the other(s) and deciding to go scorched earth in retaliation. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned because of another woman, and there’s nothing quite like any of the above situations being reported anonymously (or sometimes not-so-anonymously) to your federal agency or company’s security officials. It does happen, and it’s not pretty.

If you’re about to comment below that women can also be players and cads, I don’t disagree with you. I knew one well in my single days. But in my many subsequent years in the security world, first as an investigator and now as a defense attorney, I don’t recall encountering a single female clearance-holder with these problems. I’m sure they’re out there; perhaps they’re just savvier operators.

If you can manage similar ‘different zip codes’ savvy without breaching your security obligations, that’s your prerogative. If I could offer one piece of across-the-board advice though, it’s this: keep the philandering outside the workplace. Mixing the two has been the downfall of many a man, and is akin to combining alcohol with fire. At some point, you’re going to get burned.


This article is intended as general information only and should not be construed as legal advice. Although the information is believed to be accurate as of the publication date, no guarantee or warranty is offered or implied. Laws and government policies are subject to change, and the information provided herein may not provide a complete or current analysis of the topic or other pertinent considerations. Consult an attorney regarding your specific situation. 


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Attorney Sean M. Bigley represents clients worldwide in security clearance denials, revocations, and the security clearance application process. He is a former investigator for the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (then-U.S. Office of Personnel Management). For more information, please visit www.bigleylaw.com. Readers will also find a low-cost, self-help option for obtaining copies of their security clearance background investigations and DISS/Scattered Castles records at www.bigleylaw.com/security-clearance-investigation-records.