It has been said that you cannot choose your family, but you can choose your friends. That is true to a degree. You cannot choose your parents or siblings, but you can choose your spouse and how you connect with your spouse’s family. Therein lies a significant issue of the adjudicative guideline B, Foreign Influence. Foreign Influence covers an array of conduct, behavior and actions that could reflect negatively on an individual’s ability to protect classified information, including contact with a foreign family member, group or government that could create a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, pressure or coercion. A prior article on this site (Foreign Influence and Security Clearances) goes into detail about what behavior falls under this guideline and what the mitigating factors/actions are to offset such behavior.
The dual-citizen spouse and the security clearance – Case No. 13-00379
Applicant is a 40-year-old senior systems engineer working for a government contractor. Applicant was granted a top secret security clearance eligibility in 2006. Following his 2010 periodic reinvestigation, the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA) sent a Statement of Reasons (SOR) to revoke his eligibility based on his spouse’s foreign citizenship and his contacts with her family members and other foreign acquaintances. Applicant listed his wife as a dual Peruvian-U.S. citizen. They married in the U.S. in 2008 and held a second ceremony in Peru in 2009. Their son was born in the U.S. and holds dual Peruvian-U.S. citizenship. In 2008, Applicant met his brother-in-law (BIL) who was serving in the Peruvian military as a high level officer. The BIL subsequently retired and became a Peruvian government employee, described as a high level executive. Applicant claims personal interaction with his BIL about 15 times since they met when Applicant traveled to Peru or when the BIL visited the U.S., as well as telephone contact three to seven times per year. Applicant claims that he reported his foreign travel and marriage to a foreign national to his Facility Security Officer as these events occurred between 2008 and 2012.
Applicant failed to respond to the SOR in a timely manner and his eligibility was revoked in March 2012. He reapplied for a clearance in early 2013 and a new SOR was issued. Applicant requested, and did appear, at a personal appearance hearing and was represented by counsel.
On February 20, 2014, 2014, the DOHA Administrative Judge (AJ), found Applicant’s testimony did not mitigate the security concerns and his clearance eligibility was denied. Applicant appealed the decision. On May 22, 2014, the DOHA Appeal Board affirmed the AJ’s decision to deny the eligibility.
When it comes to a foreign-born spouse or spouse with dual citizenship, country or origin matters. Another critical factor is visit to the home country and contact with foreign born relatives. If you marry a spouse from a foreign country and you have a security clearance, think long and hard about what that will entail for foreign travel or interaction with overseas relatives. The good news is, you’ll never have a better excuse to limit your interaction with your in-laws. In the case above, it appears 15 visits, a Peruvian wedding and frequent contact with a high-level executive in a foreign country is enough to constitute ‘influence,’ and the revocation of a clearance.
In cases involving foreign influence and foreign preference, the AJ is provided information from various government agencies concerning the country involved. This information is limited to matters of general knowledge, not subject to reasonable dispute. When I served as an Army adjudicator, we did not have access to such material. However, we did have access to counter-intelligence assets who could discuss the political, social and military aspects of various countries, as well as those countries’ efforts to obtain information from cleared personnel, to assist us in our determinations. I have no doubt that this was a difficult decision based on the limited contact between Applicant and the BIL and the lack of evidence of any inappropriate or unreported travel or communication. Without access to the entire case file, I can not dispute the decision made in this case.