Foreign Influence Flags and Mitigation
I have noticed an uptick in the number of cases reviewed by the Defense Office of Hearing and Appeals (DOHA) involving foreign influence concerns. Security clearance applicants were denied eligibility under a variety of factors listed under Guideline B; Foreign Influence. Here are some examples of the concerns involved:
- Applicant’s siblings and other family members worked for a foreign government (Egypt)
- Applicant had dual citizenship with Russia and his wife’s parents were still citizens of Russia and living there
- Applicant had family, property, and financial ties to Israel
- Applicant had family ties and significant foreign contacts in Iraq who were connected to the military and government
- Applicant is Afghanistan-born with dual citizenship and has lived in the U.S. for 10 years, but has close family living in Iran and travels back to see them almost every year using an Afghan passport
- Applicant traveled to Eastern Europe to bring back a mail-order bride
Foreign threats, divided loyalties, vulnerability to manipulation or coercion are all concerns under foreign influence. The country (s) involved are a huge factor when there is a high level foreign intelligence threat, as well as if there is a history of technological and corporate espionage. You can see from the examples above why they were denied eligibility for a clearance. This is not to say the concerns can’t be mitigated. If the family members or foreign contacts are casual, distant or interaction is infrequent; individual has deep and longstanding loyalties to the U.S and has no conflict of interests; property of financial interests are minimal and cannot be used to influence or manipulate; subject follows all rules and procedures and fully reports all foreign contacts and travel information.
These days almost everyone has some type of contact with foreign nationals either through family, the use of social media, school, work, or international travel. Security clearance applicants just need to be aware of potential concerns and either disassociate yourself from them or provide mitigation.