If you didn’t know it already, Dr. Oz – former daytime TV personality – is a current candidate for Senate in the state of Pennsylvania. There may be a lot of reasons for that to make headlines, but the only ones that matter here at ClearanceJobs is speculation that Mehmet Oz’s vote in a a 2018 Turkish election and former foreign military service would make him ineligible for a security clearance.
The security speculation surfaced after a campaign call hosted by Oz’s competitor, David McCormick, and featuring former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said that the decision to vote in a foreign election was a security concern and one that could impact Oz’s security clearance eligibility.
Could Voting in a Foreign Election Affect Clearance Eligibility?
The first question is – could voting in a foreign influence impact your security clearance? The answer to almost all questions like this is, yes, it could be a factor. But is it an automatic disqualifier? No. The security clearance adjudicative guidelines haven’t changed much, but one of the arenas where they have changed over time is on the topic of dual citizenship, and specifically if an individual can take advantage of the benefits of dual citizenship, like holding a foreign passport. The policy, Guideline C, foreign influence, specifically states, “By itself, the fact that a U.S. citizen is also a citizen of another country is not disqualifying without an objective showing of such conflict or attempt at concealment. The same is true of a U.S. citizen’s exercise of any right or privilege of foreign citizenship or any action to acquire or obtain recognition of a foreign citizenship.”
Exercising the benefit of foreign citizenship could clearly be interpreted as an individual attempting to vote in a foreign election. Now, just because something isn’t disqualifying doesn’t mean it’s a great idea. Like everything, voting in a foreign election would be considered based on the whole person concept.
The bigger issue from a security clearance perspective would likely be Dr. Oz’s response to why he chose to maintain dual citizenship – to take care of the interests of his Turkish mother, who has Alzheimer’s and still resides in Turkey. That, combined with sticky relationship between the U.S. and Turkey could obviously create some security complications. The other factor would also be any foreign business ties or investments. Family and finances are much more likely to create a security risk than the one-off of voting in an election or former military service.
Moot Point for a Member of Congress
All of these security clearance concerns may be good fodder for political campaign ads, but they don’t actually matter when it comes to any potential security clearance concerns – and that’s because members of congress don’t have to go through a traditional background investigations process. Access to classified information is based on position, and once an individual is elected to office, they can get access to classified information based on any need-to-know for their positions.
It’s worth scrutinizing an individual’s foreign ties and potential risks to national security as a part of the election process. But until some form of basic FBI or background check requirement becomes a part of the congressional onboarding process, it’s a bit of a moot point.