Saturday, January 2, 2021

Frequently Asked Security Clearance Questions

By: Jeffrey W. Bennett, SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC, ISP

  In our various roles as industrial security managers, we often field tough security questions. Good questions provide the opportunity to address security clearance and awareness issues that may not arise during formal annual training sessions. These questions usually come up as I walk around the facilities or speak with folks informally. Here are just a few:

1. Is everyone who asks guaranteed a security clearance?

   No, having a security clearance is not one of our inalienable rights. A security clearance is a determination of trustworthiness based upon an extensive background check conducted by some very professional and persistent investigators. The background checks help answer a person's ability to protect classified information based on the following criteria:

• Allegiance to the United States

• Foreign influence

• Foreign preference

• Sexual behavior 

 • Personal conduct

• Financial considerations

• Alcohol consumption

• Drug involvement

• Psychological conditions

• Criminal conduct

• Handling protected information

• Outside activities

• Use of Information Technology Systems

2. Is it true that the Government can deny a security clearance for something as simple as filing bankruptcy?

   Yes, a security clearance can be denied for many reasons uncovered during the investigation reflecting the 13 criteria mentioned above. Remember, a clearance determination is based on whether or not an employee is trustworthy. Events or actions that may subject someone to release classified material to unauthorized persons or prevent them from protecting it properly could lead to a security clearance denial.


3. Why should I earn a certification?

  Try using your favorite search engine to find a job in industrial security. You’ll find that employers are now looking for prospects with education and certification.


 4. What certifications are available?

   NCMS (Society of Industrial Security Professionals) offers the Industrial Security Professional (ISP) Certification to those who work with and protect classified material.

Job descriptions include:

• Facility Security Officer

• Security Specialist

• Document Custodian

ASIS International Offers the CPP and other certifications. Also certifications include: CISSP, OPSEC, etc.  

DoD also offers the SAPPC, SFPC, ISOC and many other security certifications.

Job descriptions include:

• Facility Security Officer

• Security Specialist

• Document Custodian


5. Why are so many people being arrested for stealing “secrets”?

   In recent news, contractors and government employees have been arrested for taking classified material from the workplace, releasing it to unauthorized persons, and conducting export violations.

In some cases, the employees did not have ill intent, but lacked training. More seasoned veterans of classified work have become “immune” to security procedures. For the most part, they have committed violations and infractions, but have not been arrested.

A few have conducted espionage. It is important that security managers review security violations and look for patterns and include the information as part of the security awareness training. Such information is an integral of developing a good security system designed to protect employee, corporate and national security.

6. My friend has a SECRET clearance just like me. However, she won’t talk with me about her SECRET stuff. What’s up with that?

   You may recall in your security awareness training that classified conversations are conducted in approved areas. Dinner dates, car pools, movie theaters, etc are not approved areas. Also, just because you have a security clearance doesn’t automatically make you able to access classified material. You also have to have a valid need to know.

   Develop relationships within your security professional network. Look for opportunities to help other professionals. Equally important are developing a positive relationship with those with whom you have security oversight. Be approachable so that they will trust you enough to ask the tough questions. Who knows, you may help prevent security violations.

 W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing Red Bike Publishing . He regularly consults, presents security training, and recommends export compliance and intellectual property protection countermeasures. He is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook", "ISP Certification-The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual", and NISPOM/FSO Training".

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