New Interim Security Clearance Guidelines Address Issue of Mental Health Counseling for Victims of Sexual Assault

By Holly Gilbert

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper took steps today to address an issue faced by victims of sexual assault who have or are trying to obtain a security clearance: They may fear disclosing mental health information on their application.

According to a press release from Clapper’s office, the move would advise such victims to answer “no” to the application’s question 21 regarding past treatment or hospitalization for a mental health issue. Previously, the exemption was only granted for “family, grief and marital counseling, unrelated to violence, and counseling for post-military combat service.”

“The U.S. Government recognizes the critical importance of mental health and supports proactive management of mental health conditions, wellness and recovery,” Clapper said in the release.

The interim guidance is pending formal review before it becomes official policy, and was decided after “comprehensive review, in consultation with the members of Congress, Department of Defense, other Federal agencies and with victim advocacy groups.” The move is intended to prevent victims of sexual assault from postponing mental health counseling or treatment until after their security clearance application is reviewed.

If an individual does answer “yes” to Question 21, there are several provisions already in place to protect their privacy, including not having to answer “improper” questions about their mental health history.

Clapper is authorized to issue the interim guidance under a 2008 executive order by President George W. Bush, which allows the DNI to determine “eligibility for access to classified information or eligibility to hold a sensitive position made by any agency in the executive branch,” according to the press release. 

Photo from flickr by Waponi


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