One of the best aspects of covering the security clearance process is when individuals ask you questions about their eligibility to obtain one or work in a national security job, the answer is almost always, ‘it depends.’ And perhaps surprisingly, that’s the same answer one gives when the question is, ‘what if I’m in the terrorist screening database?’
What is the Terrorist Screening Database?
The Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) is a centralized terrorist screening database maintained by the FBI. The TSDB is different from the notorious no-fly list. Individuals on the TSDB are supposed to have demonstrated a ‘reasonable suspicion’ of ties to terrorism, but the list is by no means flawless and has come under scrutiny by the Department of Justice’s Office of Inspector General for inaccuracies in the list.
An individual would not be informed that they were on the list, so a security clearance applicant would have no reason to know or indicate their status as a part of a security clearance application. Obviously, if an individual *thinks* they’re on the TSDB, there may be other issues that would preclude the ability to obtain a security clearance, specifically not being a U.S. citizen or having a criminal record tied to terrorist activities. Only U.S. citizens are able to obtain a security clearance (path to citizenship doesn’t matter, and dual-citizenship is also not a disqualifier). Criminal conduct is not necessarily a cause for security clearance denial, but the government will consider the extent of the behavior and how recent the behavior happened. Criminal conduct with ties to domestic or international terrorism could raise more significant flags in allegiance to the United States and trustworthiness – but almost any issue can be mitigated with passage of time and under the consideration of the whole person concept.