FOIA Appeal (FIA)
FOIA; Appeal Denied
On December 22, 2022, the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) denied the Freedom of Information (FOIA) Appeal filed by Saurabh Dixit (Appellant) from a final determination letter issued by the Department of Energy's (DOE) Oak Ridge Office (ORO). On Appeal, the Appellant argued that the agency did not conduct an adequate search in response to his request.
The Appellant argued that the agency did not respond completely to his request and did not conduct an adequate search. In the final determination letter ORO explained that Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) directed the Appellant's inquiry to the appropriate offices in their organization . These offices looked in a publicly available database and found no records. They then explained that PNNL would not have any responsive records because they do not generate or maintain records of the type the Appellant was seeking. Therefore, the search was appropriate. (OHA Case No. FIA-23- 0005)
Personnel Security Hearing (PSH)
Access Authorization Granted; Guideline H (Drug Involvement and Substance Misuse)
On December 28, 2022, an Administrative Judge determined that the Individual's access authorization under 10 C.F.R. Part 710 should be granted. The Individual had an extensive history of multi - substance abuse, addiction, and three drug -related arrests. At the LSO's request, the Individual was evaluated by a DOE Psychologist (the Psychologist) who found that the Individual met the criteria for Stimulant Use Disorder (SUD) in early remission, without adequate evidence of rehabilitation or reformation.
At the hearing, the Individual provided the testimony of four witnesses, including his treating psychiatrist (Psychiatrist) and himself, to show that he had successfully mitigated the security concerns raised under Guideline H. The Individual acknowledged his SUD and testified credibly regarding the actions he has taken to overcome substance abuse problem including undergoing in - patient and out-patient treatment programs, individual counseling, and medication therapy. He also showed that he has abstained from illegal drug use for over fourteen months, and provided examples of the growth and skills he has developed through his treatment and implemented to maintain his sobriety.
The Psychologist testified that after listening to the hearing testimony, his impression is that the further the Individual has gotten away from drug use, the more he sees himself as having a future, and that he has developed a self-image as an ex-drug user who is proudly achieving his new goals. The Psychologist ultimately opined that he no longer sees the Individual's SUD as being in "early remission" and now considers his SUD to be "in remission." He further testified that he believed that the Individual does not currently have a condition that can impair his judgment, reliability, civility, or trustworthiness.
After the hearing, the AJ found that the Individual had provided credible testimony establishing that he had abstained from substance abuse for over fourteen months and thereby has established a pattern of abstinence. The AJ found that the Individual has successfully addressed his substance abuse disorders through treatment programs, individual counseling, and medication therapy, and noted that the Psychiatrist and Psychologist both opined that the Individual's substance abuse disorders are now in full sustained remission. Moreover, the AJ noted he was particularly impressed by the Individual's candor and credibility, and found that the Individual has made major life changes to overcome his drug involvement. The AJ found that the security concerns raised under Guideline H by the Individual's SUD and his drug involvement have been resolved by the evidence in the record showing that he has been reformed and rehabilitated.
The AJ therefore concluded that the Individual's access authorization should be granted. (OHA Case No. PSH-22-0137, Fine)
Access Authorization not Restored; Guidelines F (Financial Considerations) and J (Criminal Conduct)
On December 28, 2022, an Administrative Judge determined that the Individual's access authorization should not be granted under 10 C.F.R. Part 710. In April 2021, the Individual completed a Questionnaire for National Security Positions (QNSP). The Local Security Office (LSO) received derogatory information regarding the Individual's financial indebtedness and criminal conduct . Regarding the Guideline F concerns, the LSO cited two charge -off account totaling $16,084 and three collection accounts totaling $2,955. The LSO also relied on the Individual's statement that he did not intend to pay one of the charged-off accounts because the creditor could not demand payment. The LSO also relied on the Individual's failure to file his 2017 and 2018 federal and state business tax returns and his 2017 individual federal and state tax returns. Regarding Guideline J, the LSO cited a criminal charge regarding the Individual's 2015 failure to secure payment of worker's compensation insurance; 2) a 2019 restraining order, as the result of a confrontation between the Individual and his ex-wife at a gym; 3) a 2018 domestic violence restraining order; 4) a 2018 charge of battery on a spouse/former spouse, which resulted in an outstanding warrant for failure to appear being issued; 5) a 2011 charge of two counts of battery on a spouse /former spouse; and 6) the Individual's marijuana use approximately 60 times a year between 2006 through 2019. At the hearing, the Individual testified that he has not paid any of the outstanding debts listed by the LSO. He reiterated that the two charged-off accounts could not be collected. He stated that he is going to pay the other obligations when he has the money. Regarding the criminal charges and restraining orders, the Individual asserted that most of the charges were false or exaggerated. He ex -wife could not recall the details surrounding the incidents, but claimed she was being dramatic when she reported the incidents. The Administrative Judge found that he has not mitigated the concerns raised by his financial irregularities or his criminal record. Accordingly, the Individual was not able to demonstrate that he had resolved the security concerns arising under Guidelines F and J. (OHA Case No. PSH-22-0129, Fishman)
Access Authorization Restored; Guideline G (Alcohol Consumption)
On December 28, 2022, an Administrative Jude determined that the Individual's access authorization should be restored under 10 C.F.R. Part 710. The Individual is employed by a DOE contractor in a position that requires him to hold a security clearance. the Local Security Office (LSO) received potentially derogatory information regarding the Individual's alcohol consumption. The LSO alleged that: 1) after conducting a psychological evaluation of the Individual on May 26, 2022, the DOE psychologist stated in her June 6, 2022, Report that the Individual meets the diagnostic criteria for an Unspecified Alcohol-Related Disorder, pursuant to the DSM-V, and that not only does the Individual's consumption impair his judgement, but that he did not show adequate evidence of rehabilitation or reformation; 2) the Individual was arrested and charged with PI after he consumed approximately four beers and one large beer, "equaling the size of two beers," approximately two to three hours before his arrest; 3) the Individual underwent a random alcohol test in April 2019, which indicated a blood alcohol content of .034 and .030 after he had consumed eight beers over the span of three -and-a-half hours the night before, reaching a state of intoxication; 4) the Individual was arrested and charged with PI in July 1987; 5) the Individual was arrested and charged with Minor Possession in March 1987, and 6) the Individual was arrested and charged with PI in September 1985.
The Individual and the DOE Psychologist testified at the hearing. At the hearing, it was established that the Individual enrolled in and completed and Intensive Outpatient Treatment Program (IOP) and attended aftercare for the amount of time recommended by the DOE Psychologist. The Individual also testified, and the record showed, that he continued to attend aftercare through the date of the hearing . The Individual enjoyed support from his spouse, family, fellow aftercare attendees, and church members. He explained that that his involvement in community service and the study of his faith tradition help him remain abstinent, and further, he is motivated to remain abstinent for the sake of his reputation and responsibilities. Additionally, the Individual has shifted his perspective when it comes to consuming alcohol, as he is now aware that he does not need to drink in order to celebrate occasions and have fun. Finally, at the time of the hearing, the Individual had been sober for approximately ten months, as corroborated by monthly testing, and the DOE Psychologist testified that the Individual had demonstrated adequate evidence of rehabilitation and reformation. Accordingly, the Administrative Judge found that the Individual had mitigated the Guideline G concerns pursuant to the mitigating factors at ¶ 23(b) and (d). (OHA Case No. PSH-22-0136, Rahimzadeh)