Welcome to war in the era of social media, cryptocurrency, and crowdfunding.
Over the past week citizens across the world have felt the urge to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Many veterans have been wondering if they could even join the military effort after Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy created the “International Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine.”
With current clearance holders and military members obviously prohibited from joining any overseas military effort, some are asking if they can support in other ways, from sending cash to providing used equipment or armor. You’re clearly not risking jail if you send a check to a U.S. ally in a war effort, but the question isn’t exactly that simple -especially for anyone working in national security.
Is It Legal to Donate to a Foreign Country?
Clearance holders should certainly take pause before considering any overseas donation, and that’s because ‘Foreign Activities‘ are actually a separate adjudicative guideline and a particular concern. Question 20A.5 specifically asks about ‘financial support for any foreign national.’ That question has left some security clearance holders if any donations made to the country would be considered reportable on their next SF-86.
Like all clearance questions, there is some nuance and interpretation here. But common understanding of the question generally applies to specific financial support made to a foreign national – not charitable contributions, even those made to an organization based in another country. But donating to organizations, or via major sites like GoFundMe, where the contact is through a third-party and not directly with the foreign national may be one thing – providing direct support to a foreign military is another. And there are paths to doing just that for Ukraine right now.
The National Bank of Ukraine has actually set up a direct fundraising account with support going to the Armed Forces of Ukraine. The site outlines specific directions on how to transfer funds to support Ukraine’s military. That’s where security clearance holders, specifically, should certainly take pause. Donating directly to a foreign government or military would certainly fall under question 20 reporting guidelines, including 20B.1, regarding providing advice or support to a foreign government.
Don’t Fight the Urge to Help
Your urge to support the country of Ukraine is on track. Your best approach is to work with organizations you’ve already supported in the past, and see if they’ve created financial support channels that go directly to supporting refugees, citizens, or other charitable organizations at work in the country. While the temptation to sponsor a tank or an AK-47 is strong, anyone working in national security should fight that militaristic urge and make sure their donations are non-governmental in nature and geared toward relief and aid efforts.