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: If You are from Particular Countries (think Iran, Pakistan or China) You won’t be able to obtain a security clearance

Foreign influence is one of the top reasons for security clearance denial, and when it comes to foreign influence cases, country of origin certainly comes up –  but it probably matters less than you might think. In reviewing security clearance appeals and denials for 2020, three different cases came up where individuals with Pakistani origins were seeking to obtain a security clearance. Pakistan and the U.S. have a strategic alliance, but Pakistan’s proximity to, and association with, active terrorist networks makes the country a ‘complex’ ally – and certainly presents unique challenges for a Pakistani-national who seeks to take a role within U.S. national security. A DOHA case referencing a Pakistani applicant refers to it as “a country with serious problems with terrorists.” YOU DON’T SAY.

It’s worth noting that allies spy on each other. I know. Frenemies. International relations are much murkier than a map of current conflicts, and that’s why foreign influence in security clearance determinations applies the criteria across a variety of behaviors or actions, rather than a list of go-and no-go countries. One of the most well-known spies of the 20th century was Jonathan Pollard, who was convicted to life in prison after being caught spying for Israel (although, as it turns out, Pollard was accepting pay for secrets from other countries, as well).

As far as Pakistan goes, two individuals with Pakistani origins and family members successfully obtained security clearances after appeal in 2020. The one who didn’t had a variety of issues to overcome, including being ‘best friends with a Pakistani colonel,’ The applicant himself had served in the Pakistani army and the kicker – still received a pension from the Pakistani government. Foreign influence includes financial and family ties – have both an you’re unlikely to be able to obtain a security clearance, regardless of the country.

How to Mitigate Foreign Influence Issues

If you’re from another country and looking to obtain a security clearance, there are a few steps you can take to improve your chances The adjudicative guidelines note mitigating factors including:

  • Applying for U.S. citizenship as soon as they are eligible.
  • Expressing their intention to live permanently in the U.S. even after retirement.
  • Observing American holidays.
  • Participating in local non-ethnic social, community, political, or charitable groups.
  • Socializing with people outside their ethnic group.

False: Country of Origin is not a factor for security clearance determinations

Friends and allies alike spy, and when it comes to foreign influence concerns, it’s more about allegiance to the U.S. than country of origin. Among the five security clearance denials for applicants with Chinese origins, two were granted their security clearances despite spouses or other family connections to one of America’s greatest espionage threats. Three others were denied – two because of family connections and history they couldn’t mitigate, and one because in addition to being from China, he also had a marijuana habit.

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Lindy Kyzer is the director of content at Have a conference, tip, or story idea to share? Email Interested in writing for Learn more here.. @LindyKyzer