New national security guidelines reflect significant semantic changes

| Tue Mar. 14, 2006 11:45 AM EST

At the end of last year, National Security Advisor Stehpen Hadley did some word tinkering with the "Adjunctive Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information." The result is that the government now has broader, vaguer power to deny information to those seeking it. The overall change puts emphasis on loyalty to the U.S. government, and allows those holding information to look at various "suspect" factors rather than singling out a specific violation as grounds for denying classified information. It also places particular burdens on gay citizens that did not exist before.

For example, in addition to the already existing requirements for U.S. loyalty--things such a voting in a foreign election or expressing a desire to divest oneself of American citizenship--the new version says that the vocalization of allegiance to another country disqualifies a person from receiving information.

Under the category of "personal conduct," Hadley has added:

Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include: credible adverse information that is not explicitly covered under any other guideline and may not be sufficient by itself for an adverse determination, but which, when combined with all available information supports a whole-person assessment of questionable judgment, untrustworthiness, unreliability, lack of candor, unwillingness to comply with rules and regulations, or other characteristics indicating that the person may not properly safeguard protected information.

Deliberately providing "false or misleading" information to an employer could also disqualify a person from receiving classified information under the revised guidelines.

And under "psychological conditions," there is a definition of "adverse behavior":

Behavior that casts doubt on an individual's judgment… that is not covered under any other guideline" is now a condition that could render an individual unfit for approval.

However, a former sentence that would permit access to be denied because of "reliable, unfavorable information from neighbors or coworkers" has been removed.

In the area of leaks, the earlier version of the document listed one condition that could arouse a security concern; the current version lists nine, many of which are related to computer technology, and some of which are related to efforts to gain information "outside one's need to know."

The 1997 version stated that sexual orientation "may not be used" to disqualify applicants, but Hadley's new version states that clearances cannot be denied "solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual." Also, the 1997 version eliminated "adverse sexual behavior" from disqualifying an individual if the behavior was "not recent." However, the new version states that the behavior cannot be used for disqualification if it "happened so long ago, so infrequently, and under such unusual circumstances, that it is unlikely to recur."

In the "criminal conduct" section of the document, Hadley has removed the word "acquittal" from a list of factors to be considered in granting access to information. He has also added discharge from the military "under dishonorable conditions" as a reason to deny access. And though it was removed in the past, Hadley has re-instated the abuse of prescription drugs after a prolonged illness as a reason to deny access.