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Reporting adverse information.

Most security professionals agree that it is necessary to alert the government to any adverse information regarding employees who have access to classified information. Questions remain, however, concerning the definition of adverse and how the government will treat the data.

To be effective, the personnel security clearance process must be a continuing evaluation of an individual's suitability for access to classified information. People change. What is true today may not be true tomorrow.

While the Defense Investigative Service (DIS) conducts an investigation prior to granting initial access to classified information and may reinvestigate periodically depending on the granted clearance level, there is no guarantee that information pertinent to an individual's suitability for access to classified information will not develop in the interim. Therefore, DIS relies on the employer to report any potentially significant information.

Most employers agree that certain behavior, such as embezzling, should be reported. They are not as sanguine, however, about discussing participation in a drug rehabilitation program or similar activities, which may be considered of questionable value to the government or may be clouded by other circumstances.

The decision to report information should not be based on these factors or on the assumption that reporting the information will result in the denial, revocation, or suspension of a clearance. It is the government's responsibility to authenticate the information and explore each situation to determine if any exceptional circumstances exist.

Not every adverse information report results in an investigation. Only about 50 percent of the reports received warrant further study. If an investigation is necessary, the subject is generally asked to complete a new personnel security clearance application. This provides updated information to DIS.

Adjudication is based on the information obtained during the investigation and is determined by the same standards that apply during an initial clearance determination.

Each adjudication is based on the assessment of all available information, both favorable and unfavorable, including factors such as how recently and frequently an individual participated in the questionable conduct, how serious the infraction was, and his or her motivation.

Many participants in government security clearance projects have asked if they should report someone enrolled in therapy or similar employee assistance programs. The main concern is that reporting of enrollment in these programs is inconsistent with their purpose, which is to change that person's behavior.

Individuals may not seek assistance in rehabilitation programs if they believe that an adverse report--which could result in the employee being fired--will be submitted to the government.

DoD encourages participation in rehabilitation programs and respects the confidentiality of participants. Its policy must, however, strike a balance between an individual's need for confidential rehabilitation programs and the government's need to monitor and evaluate an individual's continued eligibility for access to classified information.

Therefore, DoD's policy remains--self-enrollment in an employee assistance program is not singularly reportable. However, any observed behavior indicating continued drug use, alcohol abuse, or mental instability after self-enrollment must be reported.

The government needs to be informed if rehabilitation does not succeed. This may be based on observation of behavior or an individual's failure to complete a rehabilitation program.

DIS industrial security representatives are available to assist contractors in resolving issues dealing with the adverse information reporting requirement.

John F. Donnelly is director of the Defense Investigative Service.
COPYRIGHT 1992 American Society for Industrial Security
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Title Annotation:Pentagon Corner
Author:Donnelly, John F.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Sep 1, 1992
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