Here’s your weekly DOHA dose – a shot of security clearance appeal cases and their outcome. The Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals releases the results of their security clearance appeals cases. They’re one of the best insights into which clearance cases are granted or denied in the Department of Defense.
True or False: Foreign Influence concerns are mitigated if those individuals are dead.
Family matters when it comes to security clearance determinations. There is a reason individuals are asked to list family members and ‘close and continuing’ foreign contacts on their security clearance applications. If you think about who you would be willing to breach classified information for, your family members are top of mind. And, you don’t have to watch more than a few true crime or spy flicks to realize – the bad guys always go after the spouse, the kids, or the mama.
Foreign influence is one of the top reasons for security clearance denial. Country in question is a factor, but keep in mind that friends spy on friends, as well, so any security clearance applicant with significant foreign contacts, particularly relatives, faces increased scrutiny.
In a recent DOHA appeal, the applicant submitted an appeal brief that noted his mother dies shortly before the decision was issued. That argument was thrown out for two reasons: the appeal board can’t consider new evidence, and the mother’s death didn’t change any foreign influence concerns related to the applicant’s siblings. Information provided in the appeal is light, because of the nature of the appeal brief. The applicant didn’t argue against or mitigate any of the foreign influence concerns. Unfortunately, the fact that the applicant’s mother died didn’t change any of the security concerns.
The applicant’s relatives live in Venezuela, a country not exactly on friendly terms with the U.S. at present, with no formal diplomatic ties, despite efforts by the U.S. to work with the disputed interim president. The country is likely less an issue than the individual’s relationship with relatives still there. An applicant sending significant amounts of money to a foreign country, or with significant foreign assets there, will have greater security concerns than an applicant who doesn’t. Commitment to the U.S. is also considered, and an applicant with a spouse, children, and greater commitments within the U.S. versus outside of it will have a clearer path to a favorable clearance determination.
The Case for Legal Counsel
If you need a security clearance and it’s denied, it’s worth making the investment in a security clearance attorney to help argue or draft an appeal to your case. In this case, the applicant represented himself pro se. That decision means the applicant missed out on the nuance of presenting new evidence in the case versus arguing against the judge’s initial ruling. And because the appeal denial can’t be refuted, that means the applicant will now have to wait a year before applying for a new security clearance position.
False: Dead or Alive, Foreign Born Relatives Can Haunt You
Foreign influence concerns might exist even for an individual with no relatives currently living overseas. Country of origin, length of time in the U.S., and a variety of factors contribute to foreign influence security clearance denials. Don’t assume you can just inform the government a relative is dead, and your foreign allegiance won’t be questioned. Coercion is a key security concern for applicants with foreign ties, but it’s not the only one. Because the security clearance determination takes a wholistic look into the applicant, it will consider all the ways foreign influence could factor into a security concern. And when in doubt, the government will err on the side of denying eligibility.