One of the most surprising and devastating aspects of the Security Clearance review, suspension and revocation process is that the Department of State offers no explanation whatsoever to the victims of the process. No person, no fact sheet, no communication of any kind will be given to you to tell you what is going to happen, how long it's going to take, or what you should do with yourself in the meantime. Because the Department is good about communicating in other circumstances, this is both surprising and disorienting to the employee under investigation. When you go overseas, you are provided with a huge range of resources to prepare you for what awaits you, from the Overseas Briefing Center at FSI to post-specific information upon arrival. When you are genuinely transferred back to DC, you are also provided information to ease your transition. However, when you are the subject of an investigation, no matter how minor the allegation, you are entirely on your own. Not only will nobody tell you what will happen to you, but most people you deal with will not know themselves.
At a minimum, here is what you should expect:
1. Expect to be lied to. Almost certainly, you will be removed from post under false circumstances. You will be told that you are returning to the U.S. for two weeks of consultations, training, or evaluation. Expect that you will not be returning to post.
2. Expect that you will not be told what DS is doing or why. According to regulations, DS must provide you with a reason for suspending your clearance. In actual practice, DS never follows these regulations. The DS letter of suspension will mention only "questions concerning your eligibility for a clearance" or some similarly vague statement. Remember: DS is on a fishing expedition. They do not know, themselves, what they are looking for or what they will eventually be able to charge you with. So the letter will be vague. And no subsequent information will be forthcoming.
3. Expect that nobody, even those who are most sympathetic, will be able to help you find a position in which to wait out the investigation. There are few jobs in the Department of State that do not require a clearance, and they certainly do not appear on any list. Your CDO and others in HR will be busy helping the 98 percent of FSOs that have clearances, and will not have time to weed through job descriptions looking for a job that can be adapted to be performed without a clearance. Moreover, as the State Department has always dealt with this problem by pretending it does not exist, nobody you deal with will have any more information or training than you do. You are on your own, and it is up to you to find a place to park yourself.
4. Expect that you will be the last to know anything. Whatever tiny bit of information may be circulating about your situation will originate with DS and will be classified. As a person with a suspended clearance, you don't have a right to hear it. So there will be rumors, innuendos, false allegations, and assumptions, accepted as fact by everyone you deal with, that you will not even know to exist.
5. Expect to have no friends. All those guys and gals who were your buddies when things were good will duck into the nearest open door when they see you walking down the hall. Expect it. Accept it. And make new friends.
6. Expect to be in limbo for a long, long time. The average length of a suspension under the current DS leadership is over three and a half years. At a minimum, expect to be in Washington without a clearance for at least two years.
7. Expect the Department to try to use the rules designed to protect your rights against you. Department officials will refuse to meet with you, in order to ensure you get a fair hearing. You will be denied access to information about yourself, or information that allegedly originated in your statements or writings, and the Department will deny you access in order to protect your privacy. Remember, the Department's definition of "hardball" is "cheating."
8. Expect M/MED to pull your medical clearance if your case has a MED component. Most government agencies have psychometrists - professional pyschologists whose stated job it is to evaluate psychological suitability for employment. State prefers to disguise its psychometrists as health care providers. But do not kid yourself. M/MED has exactly one patient: the US Department of State. If your health care needs coincide with those of MED's patient, great. If they don't, then MED will act to protect its patient (the State Department) against the virus that is plaguing it (you). MED and DS will play shell games with your health information in order to prevent you from accessing or challenging it. MED will make "medical" determinations based solely on information received from DS. And MED will abuse your privacy rights to hide information from you but share it widely within DS and HR.
And here is what you should do:
1. Get a lawyer. Before you or your spouse ever speak to DS, even at Post, get legal advice. Tell your RSO or the visiting DS agents that you will gladly answer their questions AFTER you talk to a lawyer. AFSA has some excellent lawyers on staff. They also have a list of private lawyers available. We have attorneys that we can recommend (but you will have to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want our recommendations).
2. Consult AFSA. Whether or not you use AFSA's attorneys, consult with them. They will know more about the process than anyone else you are likely to deal with.
3. Pack yourself out. If at all possible, before returning to the U.S. for your "two week consultations," pack yourself out of post. If you don't, then expect DS agents to be rifling through your household effects without a warrant (under the guise of protecting your property) as you are packed out, and to come up with outlandish explanations for whatever they confiscate.
4. Take leave. Before you see anyone in Washington, take a week or two of annual leave to get yourself settled, talk to an attorney, and to think calmly about your situation.
5. Pound the pavement. Or at least the corridors of the State Department, looking for a job. Remember, you will be held responsible for being in limbo. The Department of State will be looking for any excuse to justify what they are doing to you, and will, for example, low rank you if you don't find a suitable job.
6. Do your homework. Learn as much as you can about cases similar to yours. Think back on everything that could possibly impact on your case or explain the events in question and document them. Contact witnesses. Preserve documentation. Do not take anything for granted. Understand that you are facing an enemy that is both incompetent and dishonest. Be prepared to document everything, even the most obvious and publically verifiable fact. Do not expect a fair investigation. Do not expect the facts to speak for themselves.
7. Defend yourself. DS would like nothing more than for you to give up, and most of the cases DS "wins" they win by default when the employee simply gives up. If you are innocent, then defend yourself.
8. Contact Concerned Foreign Service Officers through this website to meet others in your situation who might have helpful insights or be able to help you prepare your defense.
The good news is: we have created this website to help you. The whole purpose of the resources we have linked to on our links/resources page is to help you, the potential victim of DS malfeasance, get through the process. Look carefully at our links page and read what you find.