America is rich in international heritage and culture. We pride ourselves in our ability to expand our technology and enhance our military capability. We also recognize that much of this progress directly reflects the knowledge and technical expertise of our immigrant population. We also understand the value of American citizens living abroad who fall in love and marry spouses from their host nations. Many Americans in such situations continue to thrive in jobs requiring security clearances and many immigrants successfully obtain and maintain security clearance. However, some relationships and situations may not be favorably adjudicated. The risk to national security is just too great.

This article is the second in a series covering the Thirteen Adjudicative Guidelines. As a reminder, these guidelines form the investigative and adjudicative foundation of which security clearance decisions are made. They continue to provide the same service during the cleared employees continuous evaluation phase and periodic reinvestigations for security clearance updates and maintenance. The subject employee should demonstrate their competency to protect classified information under the 13 Adjudicative Guidelines and continue to do so once a security clearance is granted.

GUIDELINE B: Foreign Influence

Under Guideline B, the employee bears the burden to clearly demonstrate that they are not susceptible or vulnerable to foreign influence that could lead to unauthorized theft or disclosure of classified information.  Foreign influence can lead to unauthorized disclosure as the cleared employee may be coerced to provide classified information due to threat to foreign influences (friends, family, in-laws) or from foreign influences (blackmail, elicitation, favors).  Where Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States, may be hard to prove Guideline B: Foreign Influence could be a paired concern. Below are real life situations of how Guideline B: can impact a security clearance decision.

Situation A: STrong Allegiance to the United States but significant Foreign Influence

In an appeal to an earlier denial of a security clearance, an applicant who emigrated to the U.S. from China states that they have demonstrated loyalty to the United States and argues that there is no reason to deny their security clearance.

However, in spite of strong demonstrations of loyalty to the U.S., they hold strong ties to relatives living in China. The applicant communicates strong sense of duty and affection to Chinese family members. These relatives could come to the attention of Chinese intelligence and become subject to pressure.  This pressure could result in the applicant being coerced through family members to release sensitive data.

Situation b: STrong Allegiance to the United States but significant threat to family members

An applicant from Iraq is denied a security clearance based on civil unrest, kidnappings, and terrorism occurring in their home country and relatives living in Iraq who could be exploited. At the time of the security clearance decision, terrorist groups controlled a large portion of Iraq.

In this case, the applicant maintains contact with Iraqi family members and provides financial support. Additionally, the terrorist activity in Iraq poses a heightened risk that that could lead to coercion. The applicant is vulnerable to threats to herself and family members that could bring her to a decision point between loyalty to the U.S. and her concern for her family. This could result in failing to protect sensitive information.

Situation C: Lack of Allegiance to the United States and Foreign Influence

An applicant is a U.S. Citizen with an American father and Brazilian mother. He continues to maintain both U.S. and Brazilian passports. He also attempted to maintain qualification to vote in Brazilian elections leaving his allegiance in question. The applicant also maintained relationships with Brazilian relatives and married a Brazilian woman who has since applied for U.S. citizenship.

This behavior demonstrated allegiance to Brazil, which has not been adjudicated. Voting in elections and benefiting from the use of a foreign passport could indicate torn allegiance and foreign influence. As such he remains susceptible and vulnerable to coercion from foreign relatives, friends, and officials. These relationships continue to thrive and could bring risk to classified information. He has since failed to mitigate the risk of foreign influence and allegiance.

We value our commitment to foreign friends and allies. These relationships benefit our country’s military and technological capabilities. However, our global reach and relationships with foreign nationals could also bring risk to national security unless properly adjudicated. The three situations are examples of real life instances where Article B: Foreign Influence has not been mitigated. The risk of providing access to classified information to employees with questionable relationships is just too great. These relationships could be exploited, leaving the U.S. vulnerable to varying degrees of damage to national security.

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Jeffrey W. Bennett is a security consultant with SFPC, SAPPC, ISOC, ISP certifications. He maintains a security blog and newsletter and is the author of many security books including DoD Security Clearance and Contracts Guidebook-What Cleared Contractors Need to Know About Their Need to Know, The Insider’s Guide to Security Clearances, and books on security certification. Visit his website www.redbikepublishing.com for more information.