Are You Required to Report Your Shady Coworker?

We’ve all heard about people abusing their power, especially when they’re in law enforcement or politics. We’ve also heard about people in important positions seeing questionable behavior in their colleagues and looking the other way or sticking their head in the sand. But what if you have a security clearance and your cleared colleague does something that would give you cause for alarm? Do you speak up? Do you pretend you didn’t see it?

This happens and it’s not unusual for the person who observed the questionable behavior to be afraid of saying something. Often, such a person will hesitate because they’re afraid they’ll alienate their colleagues, work will become a real drag, and their career will be ruined because of their colleagues’ opinions about them. Life is complicated enough without having to get “involved” in your coworker’s business, but do you really have a choice?

Your Duty to Report

If you’re a clearance holder and you find yourself in this sticky situation, you may not have a choice but to report suspicious or immoral behavior. Under the Security Executive Agent Directive (SEAD)-3, clearance holders are required to alert their agency heads or superiors of the following types of activities that pose potential security concerns:

  1. Alcohol abuse
  2. Unwillingness to cooperate with security requirements
  3. Illegal drug activity
  4. Criminal activity
  5. Misusing government property
  6. Misusing government information systems
  7. Any behavior that raises doubts about a clearance holder’s ability to protect national security
  8. Suspected mental health issues that can interfere with the clearance holder’s ability to protect classified information

If you see something that concerns you but you’re not sure if you should report it, it’s important you understand that clearance holders are supposed to report behavior that raises questions about a colleague’s continued ability to protect national security.

Whether the colleague is taking illegal drugs, abusing their spouse, watching child pornography, gambling in casinos every weekend, committing fraud, or engaging in any other questionable behavior, etc., it should not be ignored. It should be reported.

Fortunately, it being a requirement to report concerning behavior is actually a good thing because it removes the “rat’ stigma, but it also raises another question: If a clearance holder fails to report a concern, could they be punished? With the right facts, it is possible.