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Old 05-27-2019, 01:02 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Is Alcoholism a Security Concern?


Couldn't think where else to post this, so I settled for this forum. If it goes somewhere else, please move it.

For my entire military career I held a security clearance requiring a background investigation. I was also an active alcoholic for most of that time. I was keeping my drinking problem a pretty good secret in those days. Only the people living in my house knew.

Anyway...I still know a good number of people who require security clearances, and they put me down as a reference for their background checks. About once a year a government investigator will call me, ask me if I know "Jim" and schedule an interview.

One of the interview questions is always, "Have you ever seen Jim abusing alcohol?" (I'm sure this question was carefully worded by a team of lawyers and psychologists.)

As I see it, the underlying premise of that question is that people with alcohol problems are less trustworthy with national security information. I'm not sure this is true, or even why it would be true. Like I said, I held a high level clearance for decades, while a closet alcoholic, and it never once occurred to me that I might divulge classified information to anyone who wasn't supposed to have it.
Are they saying, "If you have a problem with alcohol you are more likely to break bad and betray the nation?" Seems like an antiquated notion to me - something from early last century, maybe.

Thoughts?
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Old 05-27-2019, 03:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Hm. Well I know there were times in my past drinking days that I blacked out and have no recollection of what I said, where I went, who I was with, what I did, who I allowed in my house/office/car etc.

Entire blocks of time just >poof<



If you never had that happen, you're lucky.
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Old 05-27-2019, 03:47 PM   #3 (permalink)
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drunk people can have loose lips.
i didnt divulge unless i was with others drinking and i was quite drunk.
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Old 05-27-2019, 04:05 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Well I'm glad I didn't have a job like that.

I wouldn't have been performing at my best on the job, and probably at my worst off the job.

Other people? dunno. I'm not other people

D
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Old 05-27-2019, 04:57 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Tbh, in my personal experience, it is true. I was a gossip when drinking whereas I am usually a discrete reserved person. Drinking changes behaviour even for many non-alcoholics. Alcohol is a psychoactive drug. That is no offense to the OP. Many of us drunks can remain functional and not betray secrets.
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Old 05-27-2019, 05:00 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I know that when I had a problem with alcohol, I never gave a second thought to getting behind the wheel of a vehicle and by doing so put other people's lives at stake.

For the most part, at my core I was a an honest, trustworthy, loyal American...except...at times, I had impaired judgement... as evidenced by the first sentence in this reply. That impaired judgement pretty much devalued any guarantees that I might make about my qualities of being an honest, trustworthy, loyal American.

In all honesty, would I want to trust my young children with me when I was an active alcoholic. Not likely. The same goes for my country. Even if I was a boy scout 99% of the time, why risk the 1% when I wasn't. BTW, I am fairly confident that the percentages were adjusted to my benefit. Probably not an accurate reflection. :~) Not even close.

Those statements are hard to admit to, but my recovery is more important to me than my fragile ego and hurt pride.
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Old 05-27-2019, 08:10 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I know that I would have been a security risk when I was drinking (not that I could have held down a job like that while I was drinking). I often blacked out--sometimes for hours or even days at a time--and I wasn't in control of myself. I could be a bit of a loose cannon, as well. Who knows what I would have said. If you never had that happen, that's good. It's a terrible, terrifying experience. But it is part of alcoholism and maybe that's why it's a reasonable security concern? Just my experience and thoughts.
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Old 05-27-2019, 10:50 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I don't think they're saying that a few drinks might cause someone to betray state secrets to the Russians, but may unintentionally blab stuff when drunk.

Hell, it used to be they wouldn't give top secret clearance to the gays, which makes even less sense.
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Old 05-28-2019, 06:19 AM   #9 (permalink)
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I've been a reference for people who need security clearances for their job. Some jobs it's not just about secrets but safety or a combination.

I think the big fear with any perceived vice is that is could be used for blackmail/manipulation especially if the individual isn't open or have their issue/vice documented. If they don't want it divulged they might do anything including betraying an oath.

I must say the alcoholic here once he starts blabbing or goes on a rant/rage you frequently get information or a confirmation of prior suspicions. I've seen it with others as well-in the right setting, under the right circumstances with the right chemicals they could very easily accidentally let stuff out. It wouldn't be about defying an oath or purposely ignoring their obligations.
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Old 05-28-2019, 10:27 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Good points all, thanks for the discussion. There was a reason only the people in my house knew about my alcoholism - I was a stay at home drinker. I didn't start to drink out at bars until the very end of my drinking career - when I was trying to hide from the people in my house (who got tired of my drinking long before I did)!

So, in my case, there was no one to divulge to! I'd slink off to my TV room and drink. I'd blackout, but I don't think I ever left the house. I just found plates in the morning and was like, did I eat that?

Last year or two of my drinking was a different story. I did have some scary (public) blackouts. Man, I don't miss those days!

Thanks again!
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:12 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Winston Churchill did a good job of not betraying his country
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:15 AM   #12 (permalink)
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Sure. Lots of things are.
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Old 05-29-2019, 06:50 AM   #13 (permalink)
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As a group, alcoholics have responsibility issues. While some alcoholics may not be security risks, hiring a person from a group with known responsibility issues increases risks. Does this sound like profiling? That's exactly what it is. Law enforcement and security officials use profiling all the time.

I think what you are saying is that the question negates the chances for advancement, even for an outright alcoholic who never blabs about confidential issues, which doesn't seem fair. I don't know that the question does that, however. It may simply raise a red flag that this is an issue that warrants further investigation. Depending on the person interpreting you answer, it may negate a person's chances unfairly. Whether than becomes a legal issue, I don't know.

As a respondent to the inquiry, I think it is your job to answer the question truthfully, and let the legal system sort out the fairness issue.
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Old 05-29-2019, 07:04 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Problem is many see an ex-alcoholic as a potential for relapse. You'd think sober would be an asset...
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Old 05-30-2019, 02:00 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I agree with tomsteve that it's probably more of a concern about loose lips sinking ships than betrayal of one's country.

When I was in law school, I would have considered working with the FBI or CIA except for the fact that, if I had taken a polygraph test, they would have rejected my application as a result of college drug use.
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