Understanding Adjudicative Guideline I

Los Angeles security clearance attorney John Griffith explains Guideline I of the Adjudicative Guidelines, which addresses psychological conditions.

Mental illness among those who have a government security clearance took center stage in 2013 when Aaron Alexis killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard.

It is not the government’s intention for people who suffer from psychological conditions and potentially could harm themselves or others to have a security clearance. That brings us to today’s topic: Guideline I of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.

Guideline I addresses psychological conditions that could prohibit an applicant from obtaining government security clearance. The concern is that certain psychological conditions could impair a person’s “judgment, reliability, or trustworthiness,” according to the U.S. Department of State website.

Conditions outlined in the adjudicative guidelines that could raise concern and potentially disqualify a candidate from obtaining clearance include:

  • Behavior such as emotional instability, violence, paranoia and otherwise bizarre behavior.
  • An opinion by a qualified mental health professional that the person has a condition that isn’t addressed in any other guidelines.
  • A person’s refusal to follow treatment advice related to a mental health-related diagnosis.

As is the case with each of the 13 adjudicative guidelines, there are mitigating circumstances:

  • The person’s condition is controlled with treatment, and there is a track record of the person maintaining ongoing treatment.
  • The person voluntarily enters treatment or counseling and has a favorable prognosis from a qualified mental health professional.
  • A qualified mental health professional has deemed the person’s condition as being under control or in remission, and is unlikely to experience a recurrence.
  • The past psychological condition was temporary, that situation is resolved, and there are no other indications of emotional instability.
  • The person shows no signs of a current problem.

Psychological concerns and sexual behavior were among those cited in the May 2013 denial of one person’s application. In his decision, Administrative Judge Juan Rivera explained the applicant had been issued a Statement of Reasons that listed security concerns under Guideline D and Guideline I.

The applicant disclosed that he used binoculars to watch a neighbor for 12 years, and he engaged in public indecency periodically for a number of years because it was dangerous and sexually arousing. He also disclosed having fantasies about killing his neighbor, and once assaulted her after a verbal altercation.

The applicant, who worked for a government contractor as a test software engineer, already held a clearance at the time and requested a security clearance upgrade in 2008 in anticipation for a different job position. He participated in a number background interviews over the next two years. During that time, he told an interviewer about having thoughts of revenge against those involved in his security process that included “shooting up the place,” according to Rivera’s decision. He also admitted to having fantasies about kicking down the adjudicator’s door and confronting all involved in the decision-making process.

The applicant underwent a mental evaluation and a qualified mental health professional reported that the conclusions “raised significant concerns about Applicant’s stability, reliability and judgment,” the decision stated. “In the mental health professional’s opinion, Applicant’s character logic pattern of schizoid adaptation (lack of social awareness and interpersonal isolation) was stable and of long duration.”

Based on that, the applicant’s request for a higher clearance was denied and his current clearance was revoked.

In this case, the applicant acted on his own behalf as he navigated through the clearance process.

“When you’re talking about a designation that affects your livelihood, I recommend seeking professional counsel from an attorney who specializes in security clearance,” says security clearance attorney John Griffith. “In seeking a higher clearance, this person wound up losing the clearance he had.”

There are no guarantees that a security clearance attorney will ensure that you get the clearance you seek, but having legal representation once you’ve been issued a Statement of Reasons gives you a chance to make sure you respond thoroughly and appropriately. That means you put your best foot forward in addressing the government’s concerns.

If you’re interested in obtaining clearance, or you’ve been issued a Statement of Reasons, we recommend consulting an attorney to determine your next steps. Call us today to schedule a consultation.