The Importance of Honesty in the Security Clearance Process

October 17, 2023
The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford

One of the most daunting aspects of the federal security clearance process is disclosing aspects of your life that are potentially embarrassing. Many applicants seeking federal employment will worry that their security clearance will be denied if they are completely candid in their application and, as a result, withhold certain details. Unfortunately, choosing to withhold information can do more damage than disclosure. If you have things in your past that may be problematic in obtaining a security clearance, a federal security clearance attorney can provide you with the guidance you need. 

Do You Disclose? Watch Out for These Potential Issues

To start, it is helpful to remember that you are not the only person who has applied for a security clearance and may have things in your past that you are not proud of. How you deal with those issues, however, can make all the difference. Many people will jeopardize their clearance by lying about or failing to disclose information concerning the following: 

  • Relationships or contacts with foreign nationals
  • Financial issues such as debt, previous bankruptcies, or unpaid judgments
  • Prior criminal charges or convictions

Of course, do not assume that it is okay to lie or fail to disclose your issues even though it isn’t listed above. Any falsehoods or failures to disclose can jeopardize your clearance. 

Understand the Purpose of the Security Clearance Process

One of the fundamental purposes of the federal security clearance process is to determine whether you are a trustworthy person. Government authorities, therefore, expect you to provide complete and truthful answers when applying for or renewing a security clearance. 

That said, the purpose of the security clearance process is not just about determining whether or not you are an honest and truthful person. It is also focused on determining whether you are vulnerable to foreign influence or inclined to otherwise abuse your position. 

Consider it from the government’s perspective – is the applicant someone they can trust with sensitive information if they are less than forthright in answering their questions? If they lied about or failed to disclose certain details, what are they trying to hide? Is there some deeper issue that could compromise their integrity? Could they be blackmailed, or does their financial situation incline them to engage in illegal activity? 

Dishonesty in the security clearance process raises substantial questions concerning your trustworthiness and can jeopardize your ability to obtain a clearance or a renewal. If you have things in your past that you are worried will jeopardize your clearance, a federal security clearance attorney can answer your questions and help you navigate this issue.

Failing to Disclose Is Considered Dishonesty

It is also important to understand that failing to disclose specific information will be considered dishonesty. As noted above, the expectation is that you will answer all questions truthfully and fully. This can sometimes be difficult when you are unsure whether the issue you are worried about is relevant to the question asked. If you are unsure whether you should disclose something, here are two things to keep in mind: 

  1. It is better to err on the side of over-disclosing than under-disclosing. 
  2. You are not expected to be “spotless,” but you are expected to be candid and forthcoming. 

We understand that there may be legitimate questions about whether something in your past is relevant to your application or renewal. A security clearance lawyer can give you advice that will help you avoid jeopardizing your clearance and help you move your career forward. 

Dishonesty Can Expose You to Criminal Liability

It should also be noted that dishonesty in the security clearance process can expose you to criminal prosecution. While these offenses are rarely prosecuted, applicants should be aware that it does happen. Under Federal law, knowingly concealing a material fact or making a false statement is a felony that is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and significant fines. 

What Do You Do if You Need to Disclose Something You Previously Did Not Disclose?

Whether it was poor judgment or a simple oversight, many people will suddenly realize that they failed to disclose something that they really should have. This can be a difficult situation, but you should be aware that government authorities will generally look more favorably on a voluntary correction than if they later discover the mission on their own. That said, you should seek guidance from an experienced security clearance attorney – they can provide confidential advice and help you understand your options. 

Contact Security Clearance Attorney J.W. Stafford Today

When it comes to obtaining or renewing your security clearance, invest in your career by getting the legal advice you need. At The Law Firm of J.W. Stafford, we help workers successfully navigate the challenges of the security clearance process quickly and cost-effectively. Contact us today by calling 410-514-6099 to schedule a consultation.