Security Clearances:

Due Process for Denials and Revocations by Defense, Energy, and State

NSIAD-92-99: Published: May 6, 1992. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the due process practices at the Departments of Defense (DOD), Energy (DOE), and State for individuals that have security clearances denied or revoked, focusing on: (1) the agencies' practices for suspending individuals' security clearances; (2) whether the agencies give individuals access to their investigative records; and (3) whether appeals of unfavorable decisions are heard by independent decisionmakers who document their decisions.

GAO found that: (1) the three agencies do not require that letters be sent to individuals to advise them when and why their clearances are suspended; (2) 70 percent of the individuals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force whose access or clearances were suspended for security reasons did not get their cases adjudicated by the services' central clearance offices and, as a result, their clearances were never formally revoked but were left indefinitely suspended; (4) the annual DOD report on clearance activity did not accurately show the number of clearances revoked or indefinitely suspended for security reasons; (5) State letters to individuals informing them of unfavorable security clearance actions also included information regarding procedures for gaining access to investigative material about themselves; (6) DOD and DOE regulations do not require that letters to individuals contain guidance to gain access to investigative material; (7) the three agencies have established procedures for employees to appeal unfavorable security clearance determinations; (8) DOE uses independent individuals to hear appeals and make recommendations; and (9) DOD and State use officials with administrative ties to the organizations responsible for clearance determinations, so their appeal boards do not appear to be administratively independent.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of State will revise FAM to clarify its requirement to use clearance suspension letters, but the revision will also clarify that reasons for suspension will be furnished only where appropriate and will be consistent with the interests of national security. The Department revised FAM on August 5, 1993, to use clearance suspension letters.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should revise the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) to require the use of clearance suspension letters and that the letters contain the reasons for the action.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE is developing a memo to the field. DOE met with field staff and the recommendation is already in practice. Action was completed on September 24, 1992, when DOE issued an administrative letter.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require that letters be used to tell individuals: (1) when their clearances are suspended, including the reasons; and (2) the procedures for getting access to investigative records about themselves.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The President issued Executive Order 12968, "Access to Classified Information," which required an independent panel to hear the appeals, on August 4, 1995.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should consider establishing an independent board or boards to hear appeals from DOD and contractor employees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On July 14, 1993, changes were made to DOD Regulation 5200.2-R.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should require that individuals be told by letter of procedures for requesting access to investigative records about themselves.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has incorporated this change in DOD 5200.2-R dated July 14, 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise suspension procedures to require final resolution of all clearance suspension actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Pen and ink changes were made to DOD Regulation 5200.2-R on July 14, 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise suspension procedures to require time limits for subsequent actions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD issued changes to DOD Regulation 5200.2-R.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise suspension procedures to require prompt reporting of actions to central clearance offices.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Changes were made to DOD Regulation 5200.2-R, issued July 14, 1993.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should revise suspension procedures to require detailed notification letters to individuals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department of State revised FAM issued on August 5, 1993, establishing an independent appeal process.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should consider establishing an appeal board independent of the organizations involved in unfavorable clearance decisions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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