Secrecy News

Home Foreclosures and Security Clearances

The crisis affecting the U.S. economy has made a discernible mark on security clearance disputes, according to a new study of clearance revocation cases.

“Since the collapse of the housing market in 2008, debt resulting from job losses and home foreclosures has had a devastating effect on people holding national security clearances. That, more than any other factor today, is causing the revocation or denial of security clearances, resulting in the loss of good paying jobs, and putting skilled workers further and further behind in their effort to dig out of debt.”

The new study (pdf), by attorney Sheldon I. Cohen, examined cases before the Department of Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), which is the only one of the eleven clearance adjudicating bodies to publish its decisions. [Correction: The Department of Energy also publishes its clearance adjudication decisions.] The author found a growing trend, though the actual number of cases involved remains fairly small.

“From 2000 to 2002, there was one reported case at DOHA dealing with foreclosure. Between 2003 and 2006, there averaged three cases per year. In 2007 and 2008, the number of cases dealing with foreclosures jumped to nine each year. In 2009, there were twenty-four such cases, and in the first five months of 2010, which looks like a record year, there have been nine foreclosure cases thus far.  While DOHA is the only adjudicative body for clearances that publishes its decisions [note correction above], there is no reason to believe that any of the other ten federal Adjudication Authorities come to different results.”

See “Debt and Home Foreclosures: Their Effect on National Security Clearances” by Sheldon I. Cohen, September 2010.