Many federal jobs (civilian and military) require a specific level of security clearance. If your security clearance is revoked, or if the minimum clearance level changes, you stand to lose your current position and possibly your government career.
You do have remedies to appeal a change in security clearance status. You also have rights if you suspect your clearance was revoked or changed due to retaliation or discrimination. It is important to seek legal guidance immediately if your security clearance is in jeopardy.
What are the main reasons for revocation of security clearance?
Security clearance can be rescinded if your actions, associations or circumstances call into question your integrity or allegiance to the United States. The Adjudication Guidelines list 13 grounds for revocation, ranging from foreign influence to security violations.
Your security clearance can also be revoked for off-duty personal conduct that could compromise your judgment or loyalty. For example, a drug addiction or financial hardships could convince you to sell out your country. A sex scandal could make you vulnerable to blackmailers. And so on.
Why would my security level change?
The most common scenario is a job change or promotion associated with sensitive or classified information. But your security clearance can change even if you do not switch jobs. Your position could be reclassified at a higher clearance; for example, outside contracts or internal developments that justify higher scrutiny. In that event, you should be a given a grace period to apply for the higher clearance level.
If your clearance is revoked abruptly for vague reasons or if you are singled out for a change in security level, there may ulterior motives. It could be cover for discrimination, such as actions based on race, religion, national origin, disability or pregnancy. It could be retaliation by management for something you did, such as whistleblowing on fraud, making a sexual harassment complaint or filing a work injury claim.
Are you really a national security threat?
Your agency may provide a Notice of Intent to Revoke. This gives you an opportunity to dispute the revocation through administrative channels. If your revocation, suspension or change in security level is upheld, you may be able to appeal a security clearance decision to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
However, the MSPB does not have the authority to second-guess national security threats. The board can’t address the supposed reason for revocation; it can only gauge whether you were denied due process.
- Was the security clearance decision arbitrary? Did it apply to others at your grade or in your department, or only to you?
- Did the agency follow protocols in rescinding or changing your clearance? Can they state a specific reason?
- Is there evidence of discrimination or reprisal?
The MSPB can reinstate your security clearance if it determines you were mistreated or that the clearance decision is a ruse. There is a short window to appeal an adverse action such as revocation of security clearance. Seek a lawyer who is familiar with federal employment law and the Merit System Protection Board.
Passman & Kaplan, P.C., practices extensively in this arena, and has represented many federal employees in security clearance matters.