The category of personal conduct presents a special challenge to individuals seeking a security clearance because almost any undesirable behavior can be considered a security concern. Typically, personal conduct cases mostly stem from alleged deliberate falsification of the SF-86 or false statements deliberately made to investigators. However, personal conduct cases can encompass a broad scope of conduct and can implicate multiple other guidelines.
Examples include: Cases involving unresolved debts usually adjudicated under financial considerations (Guideline F), failure to cooperate with a security investigation, and becoming romantically involved with an individual residing in the United States illegally under the foreign influence (Guideline B) and criminal conduct (Guideline J) guidelines. In truth, the personal conduct guideline serves as type of catchall for poor judgment in general. It has also been known to be applied to cases involving sexual behavior (Guideline D) and psychological conditions (Guideline I).
The Concern: Conduct involving questionable judgment, lack of candor, dishonesty, or unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations can raise questions about an individual’s reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information. Of special interest is any failure to provide truthful and candid answers during the security clearance process or any other failure to cooperate with the security clearance process.
The following will normally result in an unfavorable clearance action or administrative termination of further processing for clearance eligibility:
(a) refusal, or failure without reasonable cause, to undergo or cooperate with security processing, including but not limited to meeting with a security investigator for subject interview, completing security forms or releases, and cooperation with medical or psychological evaluation;
(b) refusal to provide full, frank and truthful answers to lawful questions of investigators, security officials, or other official representatives in connection with a personnel security or trustworthiness determination.
Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying also include:
(a) deliberate omission, concealment, or falsification of relevant facts from any personnel security questionnaire, personal history statement, or similar form used to conduct investigations, determine employment qualifications, award benefits or status, determine security clearance eligibility or trustworthiness, or award fiduciary responsibilities;
(b) deliberately providing false or misleading information concerning relevant facts to an employer, investigator, security official, competent medical authority, or other official government representative;
(c) credible adverse information in several adjudicative issue areas that is not sufficient for an adverse determination under any other single guideline, but which, when considered as a whole, supports a whole-person assessment of questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations, or other characteristics indicating that the person may not properly safeguard protected information;
(d) credible adverse information that is not explicitly covered under any other guideline and may not be sufficient by itself for an adverse determination, but which, when combined with all available information supports a whole-person assessment of questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations, or other characteristics indicating that the person may not properly safeguard protected information. This includes but is not limited to consideration of:
(1) untrustworthy or unreliable behavior to include breach of client confidentiality, release of proprietary information, unauthorized release of sensitive corporate or other government protected information;
(2) disruptive, violent, or other inappropriate behavior in the workplace;
(3) a pattern of dishonesty or rule violations;
(4) evidence of significant misuse of Government or other employer’s time or resources;
(e) personal conduct or concealment of information about one’s conduct, that creates a vulnerability to exploitation, manipulation, or duress, such as (1) engaging in activities which, if known, may affect the person’s personal, professional, or community standing, or (2) while in another country, engaging in any activity that is illegal in that country or that is legal in that country but illegal in the United States and may serve as a basis for exploitation or pressure by the foreign security or intelligence service or other group;
(f) violation of a written or recorded commitment made by the individual to the employer as a condition of employment;
(g) association with persons involved in criminal activity.
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:
(a) the individual made prompt, good-faith efforts to correct the omission, concealment, or falsification before being confronted with the facts;
(b) the refusal or failure to cooperate, omission, or concealment was caused or significantly contributed to by improper or inadequate advice of authorized personnel or legal counsel advising or instructing the individual specifically concerning the security clearance process. Upon being made aware of the requirement to cooperate or provide the information, the individual cooperated fully and truthfully;
(c) the offense is so minor, or so much time has passed, or the behavior is so infrequent, or it happened under such unique circumstances that it is unlikely to recur and does not cast doubt on the individual’s reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment;
(d) the individual has acknowledged the behavior and obtained counseling to change the behavior or taken other positive steps to alleviate the stressors, circumstances, or factors that caused untrustworthy, unreliable, or other inappropriate behavior, and such behavior is unlikely to recur;
(e) the individual has taken positive steps to reduce or eliminate vulnerability to exploitation, manipulation, or duress;
(f) association with persons involved in criminal activities has ceased or occurs under circumstances that do not cast doubt upon the individual’s reliability, trustworthiness, judgment, or willingness to comply with rules and regulations.