When an applicant for a security clearance is denied, the Department of Defense will issue a “statement of reasons” to the applicant advising him of the basis for the decision.  The applicant may then request a hearing for review of that decision, and, if still unsatisfied, appeal that determination. 

Each month the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals releases decisions of the appealed cases. Below is a highlight from the November decisions.

“RED FLAG” – CASE NO. 12-04780

The Facts:

The applicant in this case is a 47-year-old man, born and raised in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).  He moved to the U.S. to pursue a doctorate, and subsequently became a naturalized citizen.  The applicant’s parents are citizens and residents of the PRC.  He communicates with them weekly, purchased a house in the PRC for them, and provided them $1,000 – $2,500 in annual financial support.  He firmly ceased all support upon becoming aware of the potential security implications.  In addition, the applicant has three brothers, four aunts, and a family of in-laws with whom he communicates every few months.  He has visited the PRC three times since immigrating, most recently in 2008.

The applicant was denied a security clearance on account of security concerns raised under Guideline B, “Foreign Influence,” and appealed the decision.


Clearance denial affirmed.  The Appeals Board concluded the applicant failed to establish error on the part of the Judge, and affirmed his finding that the clearance was appropriately denied.  The Judge’s conclusion was based on the applicant’s parents, brothers, and parents-in-law remaining in the PRC.  In analyzing a foreign influence case, the determining authority will consider the nature of the foreign country and its relationship with the U.S. According to the Board, “The PRC’s history of conducting espionage against the United States puts a heavy burden of proof on Applicant that he was unable to meet because of his ties to his relatives who are PRC citizens and residents.”

Read more about foreign influence and your security clearance.

The U.S. relationship with China remains murky, and individuals seeking to obtain a U.S. security clearance will face hurdles if they have significant ties to the country. Not all foreign influence is created equally – a security clearance applicant with ties to Germany and one with ties to Russia are two different things. In either case, significant foreign connections may be cause for security clearance denial. But the nature of the country, its relationship with the U.S., and the applicants relationship with his family overseas are determining factors.

In the case above, the applicant was unable to mitigate his relationship with his parents, including the house he purchased for them and his continued relationship and financial support. Such support signaled strong ties to a country with an adversarial relationship with the United States.

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