Obtaining Security Clearance

A Security Clearance Isn't an Unalienable Right

This week a budget analyst at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency filed a lawsuit against the NGA, seeking reinstatement of his Top Secret/SCI security clearance, it having been revoked after his union with an Islamic women with a number of affiliations with groups of “non-United States origin.” In the period between Mahmoud M. Hegab’s security clearance investigation and his arrival to work with NGA, he had married Bushra Nusairat,a Fairfax citizen and U.S. resident, and a graduate of an Islamic school and current employee of Islamic Relief USA…

Nearly a year after starting his job with the NGA, Hegab received noticed that his security clearance had been revoked, reports Secrecy News, and he was placed on unpaid administrative leave. Despite appeals, NGA has held to its decision, stating:

“The information provided does not mitigate your spouse’s current affiliation with one or more organizations which consist of groups who are organized largely around their non-United States origin and/or the advocacy of or involvement in foreign political issues. This concern elevates the potential for conflicts of interest between your obligation to protect sensitive or classified United States information and technology and your desire to help a foreign person, group, or country by providing that information.”

We’ve talked a lot at ClearanceJobs about “foreign entanglements” and the issues concerning allegiance or affiliation with a foreign country. Not a cut and dry issue, it’s often difficult to speculate a specific “amount” of foreign influence which may cause issues, and depends extensively on the work of investigators digging into financial and personal ties that may conflict with U.S. interests. It’s also not as simple as simply not affiliating with terrorist organizations – that seems like a no brainer. An issue is whether or not, when put in a position to “choose” between your allegiance to the United States and your “entanglement,” which would you choose?

No one has a “right” to a security clearance. Hasad’s lawsuit argues that he has lost a property interest by not being able to maintain his current job, as well as  prejudice in future employment. The lawsuit claims that his Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom of Association have been violated by losing his security clearance based solely on the religion and associations of his wife.

The issue isn’t just one of Islamic association – close relationships or financial ties with any foreign country could potentially cause security clearance revocation or denial (read potentially: the issue is whether or not one can mitigate the association). But the difficulty for individuals with close ties to Islamic countries in being able to obtain security clearances has been brought up as a key barrier keeping qualified linguists and area subject-matter-experts from working in the government.


Comment Archive

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    It is regrettable that Hegab lost his job, however, I am with the US Government on this one. One of the foundations of adjudication is ‘…when a judgment call must be made, it will ALWAYS be made in favor of the US Government…’

    I wouldn’t expect China (just an example) to give me a security clearance. Just because we live in the melting pot doesn’t mean that past/present foreign associations will be overlooked. A person’s spouse is assumed to be their closest contact; spouse’s wield heavy influence on their counterparts.

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    One always cries about their freedoms, especially religion. Be clear–religion has nothing to do with anything. Our citizens have become way too demanding these days.

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    It will be interesting to see the outcome of this case. I really don’t see how him losing his clearance violates the various amendments listed in the complaint.

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    Everyone is quick to throw out the rights card, yet most have never even read the constitution or bill of rights.

    Remember, you have no right to classified info unless the govt says you can.

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    Who is the government? We the people. We can make and change the rules and the law. Just change the rules. The terrorist have won and made the USA a bunch of paronoid chihuahuas.

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    But does this not raise a practical consideration in the form of bias against exactly the types of people necessary to meet the needs of the USG? That is, if I am not an Ivory Tower Academic, and I’ve actually had extensive experience traveling/living/interacting in my geographical area of interest, I am more likely to be competent at my job, but I am also more likely to have some types of ties to that area. I may even be married to a woman from that area. That is probably inevitable. If it is inevitable that those two probabilities correlate, then the problem is not a guy married to a Muslim woman, but a system that can only rob the USG of the talent that it needs. The problem is that as it is, the investigation process is Defective By Design in that it selects for ignorance in your field. That can’t be the aim of the selection process, either.

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    I am sorry to disagree Mr. BW an investgator, but I have read the constitution and the bill of rights and the appropriate executive orders and agency regs governing access to classified information. To be honest statements like “Everyone is quick to throw out the rights card,yet most have never even read the constitution or bill of rights” always makes me nerveous even though the First Amendment to the US Contitution gives you the right to make that statement.
    No one is denying that NGA has the responsibility and the obligation to revoke a security clearance if the situation is appropriate. What isn’t true is that anyone has a “right” to access classified information.
    Access is granted based on a documented need to know and an appropriate background investigation.
    In addition even though the courts will not review a decision to grant or revoke a security clearance, depending on the circumstances they can make a determination as to whether Hegab recieved the apppropriate level of due process. Hegab is makeing the same arguments that others have tried in New Jersey and a few other federal courts without sucess. The attorneys are hoping to use the religion argument to make this a constitutional issue. In a case not involving a security clearance, when the governmnet classifies or appers to classify individul’s based on religion the courts will review the decision under the strict scrutinity standard of constitutional law. In this case the courts will most lkely follow precedent in the Supreme Court case of Dept of the Navy v. Egan, which means the government wins. That beign said, if Hegab wishes to pursue his appeal in federal court that is his right.

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    Sadly I have met too many double agents that should be tried for treason, not awarded security clearance. A privileged that is earned through acts of trust and proven integrity as a true team player working for the greater good for all of our family.


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    Hegab’s religion argument doesn’t hold water. The adjudication process does NOT consider religion…unless, for example, your religion required you to sacrifice human beings and you engaged in that activity…then it would be a clear cut criminal activity issue.

    Hegab’s argument that his spouse’s associations/affiliations are being held against him hits the nail on the head. And with good reason. A person’s spouse is typically the MOST influential person in their lives. Hegab’s spouse has DIRECT POLITICAL ties to foreign countries through her job in the US. It makes no difference that her political ties are with Islamic nationals; they could just as easily be with China. The whole point of personnel security clearance investigations/adjudication is to identify these types of issues. Not everyone is going to qualify to be granted a clearance.

    *** For Donald Anthony *** Well said. But please consider that no one expects you to have zero foreign national contacts after working/residing in a foreign country. There are varying degrees of type, frequency and reason for contact with foreign nationals. There are also degrees regarding how deeply your particular contacts might be able to influence your judgment. In this situation, obviously, a spouse with direct political ties to foreign countries is unacceptable.

    I don’t want to bash Hegab or make light of his situation…BUT…he’s a budget analyst by trade. He could do that job in almost ANY federal agency. He could easily have chosen ANY of the federal agencies that don’t require a security clearance – let alone a TS/SCI. He specifically chose NGA. NGA…frequently referred to as the MOST secretive federal agency. And then shortly after he becomes employed he marries someone with DIRECT POLITICAL ties to foreign countries. I have a very hard time believing that he had NO IDEA that this was coming.

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    No disrespect, but this isn’t a political blog. I simply pointed out the fact–the govt has right of refusal. Good or bad, that’s the system we have. This country based on rules, which have not been followed since it’s inception. The old saying applies….You have no legal right to a clearance, although you have the right to appeal.

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    Lotta truth in your statement.