Given the volatility in the world over the past several years, I am seeing more security clearance cases as they relate to foreign influence and foreign preference.
The United States government can express a concern regarding an individual’s access to classified material in the form of a secret or top-secret security clearance if it has concerns regarding the individual having divided loyalties or foreign financial interests. Specifically, the government’s concern is that an individual with divided loyalties or foreign financial interests may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization or government in a way that is not in US interest or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by any foreign interest.
Conditions That Raise Foreign Influence Security Concerns
The conditions stated by the government that may raise a security concern regarding foreign influence and may be disqualifying as far as allowing an individual to obtain or retain a security clearance include:
- contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend or other person who is a citizen or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure or coercion;
- connections to a foreign person, group, government, or country that create a potential conflict of interest between the individuals obligation to protect sensitive information or technology in the individual’s desire to help a foreign person, group, or country by providing that information;
- contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend, or other person who is a citizen of or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;
- connections to a foreign person, group, government, or country that create a potential conflict of interest between the individual’s obligation to protect sensitive information or technology and the individual’s desire to help a foreign person, group, or country by providing that information;
- counterintelligence information, that may be classified, indicates that the individual’s access to protected information may involve unacceptable risk to national security;
- sharing living quarters with a person or persons, regardless of citizenship status, if that relationship creates a heightened risk of foreign inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;
- a substantial business, financial, or property interest in a foreign country, or in any foreign-owned or foreign-operated business, which could subject the individual to heightened risk of foreign influence or exploitation;
- failure to report, when required, association with a foreign national;
- unauthorized association with a suspected or known agent, associate, or employee of a foreign intelligence service;
- indications that representatives or nationals from a foreign country are acting to increase the vulnerability of the individual to possible future exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion;
- conduct, especially while traveling outside the U.S., which may make the individual vulnerable to exploitation, pressure, or coercion by a foreign person, group, government, or country.
Conditions That Could Mitigate Security Concerns
- the nature of the relationships with foreign persons, the country in which these persons are located, or the positions or activities of those persons in that country are such that it is unlikely the individual will be placed in a position of having to choose between the interests of a foreign individual, group, organization, or government and the interests of the U.S.;
- there is no conflict of interest, either because the individual’s sense of loyalty or obligation to the foreign person, group, government, or country is so minimal, or the individual has such deep and longstanding relationships and loyalties in the U.S., that the individual can be expected to resolve any conflict of interest in favor of the U.S. interest;
- contact or communication with foreign citizens is so casual and infrequent that there is little likelihood that it could create a risk for foreign influence or exploitation;
- the foreign contacts and activities are on U.S. Government business or are approved by the cognizant security authority;
- the individual has promptly complied with existing agency requirements regarding the reporting of contacts, requests, or threats from persons, groups, or organizations from a foreign country;
- the value or routine nature of the foreign business, financial, or property interests is such that they are unlikely to result in a conflict and could not be used effectively to influence, manipulate, or pressure the individual.
The government may also have concerns as it relates to foreign preference. The concerns and potential mitigation as set forth by the government are set forth below.
Foreign Influence Conditions That Would Disqualify Security Clearance
When an individual acts in such a way as to indicate a preference for a foreign country over the United States, then he or she may be prone to provide information or make decisions that are harmful to the interests of the United States. Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:
- exercise of any right, privilege or obligation of foreign citizenship after becoming a U.S. citizen or through the foreign citizenship of a family member. This includes but is not limited to:
- possession of a current foreign passport;
- military service or a willingness to bear arms for a foreign country;
- accepting educational, medical, retirement, social welfare, or other such benefits from a foreign country;
- residence in a foreign country to meet citizenship requirements;
- using foreign citizenship to protect financial or business interests in another country;
- seeking or holding political office in a foreign country;
- voting in a foreign election;
- action to acquire or obtain recognition of a foreign citizenship by an American citizen;
- performing or attempting to perform duties, or otherwise acting, so as to serve the interests of a foreign person, group, organization, or government in conflict with the national security interest;
- any statement or action that shows allegiance to a country other than the United States: for example, declaration of intent to renounce United States citizenship; renunciation of United States citizenship.
Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:
- dual citizenship is based solely on parents’ citizenship or birth in a foreign country;
- the individual has expressed a willingness to renounce dual citizenship;
- exercise of the rights, privileges, or obligations of foreign citizenship occurred before the individual became a U.S. citizen or when the individual was a minor;
- use of a foreign passport is approved by the cognizant security authority;
- the passport has been destroyed, surrendered to the cognizant security authority, or otherwise invalidated;
- the vote in a foreign election was encouraged by the United States Government.
If you are completing your SF 86 (Standard Form (SF) 86) through the Electronic Questionnaires for Investigations Processing system (e-QIP) and have concerns in this area, please feel free to contact me PRIOR to completing and submitting the form. Also, if you have already submitted your SF 86 and have been notified that the government has concerns regarding your clearance with regard to foreign influence and/or foreign preference, please feel free to contact me immediately for assistance.
If you have concerns about any type of security clearance, please contact me directly by visiting my security clearance web site: www.securityclearancedefenselawyer.com I have been helping individuals with security clearance concerns, denials and revocations for several years. You can contact me here or by phone at my direct phone number 256-713-0221.
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Ron Sykstus is a Managing Partner of several of the Bond & Botes Law Offices throughout Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a Juris Doctorate from the Northern Illinois University College of Law. Ron has served in numerous positions throughout the U.S. Army and now utilizes his expertise in the areas of VA issues, security clearances, military law, and bankruptcy to assist his clients when they need it most. Read his full bio here.