To understand why the U.S. government has a rigorous investigative process for those applying for security clearance, take a look at the biggest corruption case in the Navy’s history.
It serves as proof why the government would want to know about deeply personal areas of applicants’ lives before issuing security clearances.
The investigation of Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian defense contractor who pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing Navy officials with cash, prostitutes, Cuban cigars, fine foods and luxury hotel accommodations, began in 2013.
Since then, it has revealed that some Navy officials simply partied on Francis’s dime, while others forked over classified information in exchange for the lavish gifts.
Daniel Layug is an enlisted sailor who used his security clearance to provide classified information to Francis. He pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and providing classified documents about the Navy’s Asia operations to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, according to The Washington Post. That’s the company Francis owned that stole millions of dollars from the Navy by overcharging when it resupplied ships during port visits. Layug is the first person to be sentenced in this corruption case, but he won’t be the last. Seven other people have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.
A Need to Know
The federal government has 13 Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. These guidelines are designed to assess an applicant’s security risk by looking at factors such as personal and criminal conduct, drug and alcohol use, sexual behavior, and financial considerations, to name a few examples.
“The purpose is to decrease the likelihood that a person who holds a security clearance will release sensitive information to people who shouldn’t have it,” says Catie Young, an attorney who specializes in security clearance law. “The government’s desire is to allow only those personnel who are of strong character and pose no security risks to obtain access to classified information.”
Sadly, the Navy corruption scandal shows that this is not a foolproof process.
Here’s what Laura Duffy, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, whose office led the investigation, told The Washington Post in January 2015:
“It is astounding that Leonard Francis was able to purchase the integrity of Navy officials by offering them meaningless material possessions and the satisfaction of selfish indulgences. In sacrificing their honor, these officers helped Francis defraud their country out of tens of millions of dollars. Now they will be held to account.”
Even those who haven’t been charged are feeling the sting. Navy Intelligence Chief Vice Adm. Ted “Twig” Branch and Rear Adm. Bruce F. Loveless, the Navy’s director of intelligence operations, have worked without security clearances for more than two years because their names surfaced during the investigation and they remain under investigation.
Branch has continued to serve in the same position throughout the investigation, but Loveless got reassigned to a slightly less sensitive post, The Washington Post reports. Branch cannot enter his colleague’s offices without them first conducting a sweep to ensure all classified documents are locked away.
How much longer will Branch be prohibited from seeing, reading or hearing classified information that normally would be required to perform his duties? No one seems to know.
Obtaining security clearance isn’t an easy process. Often, it is a requirement to perform a job. Let this Navy case serve as a reminder not to jeopardize your livelihood and your freedom by abusing your clearance privileges, Young says.