Security and Suitability Issues

The following are examples of behaviors that may indicate an individual has vulnerabilities that are of security concern or that an individual is in need of assistance. Each of the headings below is linked to the adjudicative policy for that issue. The list is based on the adjudicative guidelines for approving or revoking security clearances. The same list is also found under Standards of Personal Conduct

You should consider reporting these behaviors when observed, so that your supervisor or the security office can check whether some type of prophylactic or investigative action is appropriate.


is YOUR job

If ignored, problems signaled by these behaviors could impair the health, well-being, or performance of the individual employee, disrupt the work unit, or lead to compromise of sensitive information. People Who Made a Difference provides examples of such reporting that either helped a co-worker avoid trouble or caught a spy.

People who engage in destructive behavior in the workplace, whether it be theft of government or company property, violence, or espionage, are generally under a great deal of stress from some kind of personal problem or career crisis. If we care about our co-workers and our organization's mission, we need to be sensitive to our co-workers' problems.

bullet  Early intervention is often the key to quick, effective resolution of problems without harm to the individual or the organization.

The fact that an individual exhibits one or more of the behaviors listed below certainly does not mean he or she is a security risk. Any security judgment is based on a pattern of behavior, not a single action. And it is a "whole person" judgment that takes many different factors into account, including a person's strengths as well as their weaknesses.

The list of security-relevant behaviors is not a checklist for collecting information on your co-workers. It simply provides examples of behaviors that may signal an individual is having problems or may need assistance. Consider this list, together with everything else you know about the individual and the sensitivity of the individual’s position, then exercise your best judgment in determining whether to report and, if so, what, when, and to whom to report. The appropriate office to contact in some cases may be the Employee Assistance Program or medical office, rather than the security office.

Employee Assistance Programs and other counseling services assist employees in resolving problems before the employee’s health, well-being or job performance are seriously affected. They handle problems in such areas as substance abuse, family/marital relationships, stress management, mental health (especially depression), financial counseling, compulsive gambling, etc.

Working together, we can identify problems earlier, hopefully render assistance before a situation becomes irreversible, and ultimately help our colleagues and protect the national security. Additional information on some of these issues is available in Understanding and Helping with Personal Problems.

The list of security-relevant behaviors is not all-inclusive. It is not government policy, but simply illustrative of the kinds of behaviors that may be considered when deciding whether a person should hold a position of trust. Some behaviors are obviously more significant than others.

Security-Relevant Behaviors

Alcohol Consumption

  • Appearing intoxicated at work.
  • Driving while intoxicated.
  • Concealing alcohol at work or in the car.
  • Sleeping at the desk.
  • Irresponsible behavior while under the influence.
  • Unexplained, repeated absences on Monday and/or Friday.
  • Going "on and off the wagon."
  • Comments admitting excessive drinking.
  • Cannot remember something that happened while drinking.
  • Use of alcohol as means of coping with stress.
  • Uncharacteristically slurred speech, disorientation, or lack of coordination.

Allegiance to the United States

  • Actual or threatened use of force or violence in an effort to change government policy, prevent government personnel from performing their assigned duties, or prevent others from exercising their constitutional rights.
  • Knowing participation in any organization or group that advocates or threatens use of force or violence, as above

Criminal Conduct

  • Theft
  • Fraud (for example, bribery or solicitation of bribes, misuse of government credit card, misuse of leave, fraudulent travel or expense accounting, tax fraud).
  • Pattern of disregard for rules and regulations (in addition to theft and fraud, this includes taking classified information home at night, driving while intoxicated, etc.).
  • Spouse or child abuse or neglect.
  • Attempts to enlist others in illegal or questionable activity.

Drug Involvement

  • Use of illegal/illicit substances.
  • Misuse of prescription medication (use other than as prescribed).

Emotional, Mental, and Personality Disorders

  • Pattern of significant change from past behavior, especially relating to increased nervousness or anxiety, unexplained depression, hyperactivity, decline in performance or work habits, deterioration of personal hygiene, increased friction in relationships with co-workers, isolating oneself by rejecting any social interaction.
  • Expression of bizarre thoughts, perceptions, or expectations.
  • Pattern of lying and deception of co-workers or supervisors.
  • Talk of or attempt to harm oneself.
  • Argumentative or insulting behavior toward work associates or family to the extent that this has generated workplace discussion or has disrupted the workplace environment.
  • Exploitation or mistreatment of others through intimidation or abuse of power or position.
  • Other disruptive workplace behavior that resists supervisory direction or counseling.
  • Verbal outbursts drawing attention of those not directly involved in the exchange.
  • Verbal or physical threats toward work associates or family.
  • Inability to control anger -- throwing things, acts of violence.
  • Stalking-type behavior (such as unwanted following, harassing phone calls).
  • Extreme or recurrent statements of bitterness, resentment, vengeance, or disgruntlement that suggest a risk of some illegal or improper action.
  • Threats or attempts to get even with work associates, acts of vindictiveness.

Financial Considerations

  • Living or spending beyond one's apparent means. Unexplained or sudden large sums of cash. (Note: This is also covered as a counterintelligence indicator.
  • Calls at work from creditors.
  • Denial of credit.
  • Bounced or bad checks.
  • Garnishments, repossessions, unfavorable judgments, or other indications of financial difficulty.
  • Failure to make child or spousal support payments.
  • Reckless or compulsive spending, extensive gambling losses, evident gambling debt.
  • Bankruptcy.
  • Improper handling of official finances or property, including repeated delinquent accountings for advances, unexplained cash.
  • Shortages or loss of property, sloppy handling of cash funds, disregard for financial or property administration regulations.
cartoon Report unexplained affluence.

Foreign Influence

  • Unreported personal contacts with personnel from a foreign intelligence service, foreign government, or persons seeking classified, proprietary, or other sensitive information.
  • Unreported close and continuing contact with a foreign national, including intimate contacts, shared living quarters, or marriage.
  • Unreported relatives, or unreported contact with relatives, in a foreign country.
  • Unreported relationship between relative, associate, or person sharing living quarters and any foreign government, foreign intelligence service, criminal or terrorist group, or group advocating disloyalty toward the U.S.

Foreign Preference

  • Exercising benefits of dual citizenship, including possession and use of a foreign passport.
  • Such a deeply held commitment to helping a foreign country or group that an individual may be tempted to circumvent U.S. policy or security regulations in order to assist the foreign country or group.

Misuse of Information Technology Systems

  • Unauthorized entry into any compartmented computer system.
  • Unauthorized searching/browsing through classified computer libraries.
  • Unauthorized modification, destruction, manipulation, or denial of access to information residing on a computer system.
  • Storing or processing classified information on any system not explicitly approved for classified processing.
  • Attempting to circumvent or defeat security or auditing systems, without prior authorization from the system administrator, other than as part of a legitimate system testing or security research.

Outside Activities

  • Failure to report paid or volunteer work for any U.S. or foreign media, publisher, academic institution, research organization or corporation relating to the topics on which one has access to classified information. (See the topic on your responsibility to report certain outside activities in which you engage.)

Personal Conduct

  • Recurring pattern of poor judgment, irresponsibility, or emotionally unstable behavior.
  • Deliberate omission or falsification of material information about background when applying for security processing.
  • Voluntary association with persons involved in criminal activity.
  • Indications subject may succumb to blackmail rather than risk exposure of a personal issue.
  • Also see indicators of Emotional, Mental and Personality Disorders

Security Violations

  • Persistent lax security habits despite management counseling (such as discussing classified information on nonsecure phone, not properly securing classified information or areas, working on classified material at home).
  • Collecting or storing classified information outside approved facilities.
  • Revelations to unauthorized persons.
  • Inappropriate, unusual, or excessive interest in classified information outside one's need-to-know.
  • Statements or actions that demonstrate an individual believes the security rules do not apply to him/her.
  • Unauthorized contact with media.
  • Note: Other issues relating to mishandling of classified information are covered under counterintelligence indicators.

Sexual Behavior

  • Pattern of self-destructive and high-risk sexual behavior that the individual is unable to stop.
  • Criminal sexual behavior.

Related Topic: Exploring the Mind of the Spy, Spy Stories.


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