Security Concerns

The following are examples of behaviors that may indicate an individual has vulnerabilities of security concern or that an individual is in needs of assistance.

This list of behaviors is not all-inclusive. The list is not a statement of Government policy, but simply illustrative of the kinds of behaviors that may be considered when a person is under consideration for a security clearance or a position of trust. Some behaviors are obviously more significant than others.


Too much stress or chronic stress can lead to poor judgment. No employee ever exploded in violence or committed suicide because they were happy and relaxed. They were “stressed out” and desperate. A safe and secure office environment is one in which employees know how to recognize and manage the negative aspects of stress.

Alcohol abuse or dependence

It is a security concern when:
  • It affects an individual’s ability to exercise the care, judgment and discretion necessary to protect classified information or perform sensitive duties.
  • It is part of a pattern of impulsive, immature, sensation-seeking, hostile, or antisocial behavior.
An alcohol problem is more serious when it is part of a broader pattern of undesirable behavior. It may indicate an underlying psychological disorder that will cause future problems and resist treatment. How the person behaves under the influence of alcohol is more important than how much or how often subject drinks, and even whether or not the subject is formally diagnosed as an alcoholic.


Severe eating disorders are primarily a medical problem, but anorexia and bulimia do have security overtones. Both are frequently accompanied by other mood, anxiety and personality disorders that may be a security concern. Those who suffer from bulimia are typically ashamed of their eating problems and attempt to conceal them. Their binge eating usually occurs in secrecy. Any out-of-control behavior that a person is ashamed of and seeks to conceal is a potential vulnerability of security concern.


As a general rule, depression alone is treated as a medical or performance problem, not a security issue. It is not the type of illness that is likely to trigger impulsive or high-risk behavior.
  • The depressed person generally lacks the energy and confidence to embark on new initiatives, especially a high-risk activity such as espionage.
  • Depressed individuals are more likely to do nothing, for fear that whatever they do will be wrong and cause even more problems.
Depression could become a security issue if:
  • The individual fails to take prescribed medication.
  • The depression affects judgment or is accompanied by other problems that cause insecure, unsafe, irresponsible or unreliable behavior.
Depression is sometimes accompanied by periods of mania, in which case it is a different illness altogether. Mania, or extreme excitability or irritability, may cause impulsiveness, poor judgment, and increased talkativeness, all of which are security concerns.


Compulsive or addictive sexual behavior is a security concern because it may lead to poor judgment or lack of discretion, indicate a serious emotional or mental problem, or attract the attention of hostile intelligence or security services and open one to exploitation, manipulation, or coercion.


Drug use or abuse raises a number of specific security concerns:
  • Use of an illegal drug indicates an unwillingness or inability to abide by the law.
  • Users of illegal drugs may be susceptible to blackmail, especially if exposure of drug use could cost them their job.
  • Procurement of illegal drugs while traveling abroad or carrying drugs across national boundaries risks attracting the attention of foreign intelligence services or other individuals who may seek to exploit this vulnerability.
  • The more dangerous the drug, the more the drug use indicates a propensity for irresponsible or high risk behavior, rebellion against social norms, alienation, or emotional maladjustment, all of which may be security concerns. These characteristics cast doubt upon an individual’s judgment and ability to protect classified information or perform sensitive duties even when not under the influence of drugs.
  • Drug abuse or dependence often indicates the presence of broad emotional or personality problems of security concern. It may also cause financial problems, leading to criminal activity to financial drug habit.

An individual who is financially overextended is at risk of engaging in illegal acts to generate funds.
  • If a person is not at fault for the financial problems and is dealing with in a reasonable manner, security concern is substantially alleviated.
  • Debts caused by irresponsible or impulsive behavior or by gambling, alcohol abuse or drug abuse are a serious concern. A person who is irresponsible in fulfilling financial obligations may be irresponsible in fulfilling other obligations, such as following the rules for protecting classified information or performing sensitive duties.

Gambling debts may:
  • Compromise one’s financial stability.
  • Cause problems with family and work.
  • Prompt some individuals to engage in illegal activities, including espionage, as a means of covering their losses.
Addicts of all types typically organize a part of their life and their circle of friends around their addiction. Foreign intelligence and security services generally maintain sources in these circles, and it is easy for them to place an agent in contact with a potential target who attracts attention through these activities. Habitual behaviors that provide such access opportunities for foreign intelligence and security services increase the risk that an individual will become a target and that any vulnerability that does exist will be discovered and exploited.


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

  • Recurring pattern of poor judgment, irresponsibility, or emotionally unstable behavior
  • Deliberate omission or falsification of material information about background when applying for security processing
  • Association with persons involved in criminal activity
  • Indications subject may succumb to blackmail rather than risk exposure of a personal issue
  • Persistent lax security habits despite management counseling (such as discussing classified information on non-secure phone, not properly securing classified information or areas, or working on classified material at home)
  • Collecting or storing classified information outside approved facilities
  • Revealing of classified information to unauthorized persons, including news media
  • 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
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Accessibility/Section 508