ENCINITAS, CALIFORNIA — Nearly 5 million people in the United States have some level of security clearance. In addition to those, many apply for and are denied clearance for a number of reasons, including foreign influence concerns.
An applicant who applies for and is denied clearance is provided a Statement of Reasons, which identifies one or more of the 13 adjudicative guidelines as reasons why the application was denied. We’ve explained certain guidelines here on our blog over the past several months, and today we’re sharing information about Guideline B – Foreign Influence.
Military personnel, consultants, contractors, employees of contractors and civilian government employees who require access to classified information as part of their job duties must obtain security clearance.
When a person is granted security clearance, a variety of factors are taken into account, such as the applicant’s commitment to the U.S., reliability, trustworthiness and ability to protect classified information, according to information on the U.S. Department of State website.
The concerns outlined in Guideline B revolve around questioning whether an individual applying for clearance has “divided loyalties or foreign financial interests, may be manipulated or induced to help a foreign person, group, organization, or government in a way that is not in U.S. interests, or is vulnerable to pressure or coercion by any foreign interest,” according to the Department of State.
A variety of conditions can raise a security concern under Guideline B. However, there also are mitigating circumstances. An attorney with experience in this legal specialty can help an applicant provide adequate information in the SF-86 security questionnaire that is completed when a person applies for security clearance to help ensure the application is approved.
“Simple omissions can be enough to raise concerns for those reviewing these applications,” says John Griffith, a security clearance attorney.
A February 2012 case involving an associate engineer employed by a federal contractor is a good example of how an attorney might have helped this applicant obtain his clearance on the first try, and avoid having his application forwarded by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals to an administrative judge for a determination whether to deny his application, according to information available on the U.S. Department of Defense website.
The applicant was Moroccan-born and came to the U.S. in 1999. He became a U.S. citizen in 2008 and applied for security clearance due to his job in 2009. The security concerns raised in his application centered around not just Guideline B, but also Guideline C (foreign preference) and Guideline E (personal conduct).
He kept his Moroccan passport and his Moroccan identification card after becoming a U.S. citizen, even though he legally changed his name upon being granted U.S. citizenship, but he used his U.S. passport for all foreign travel. When he learned that his Moroccan passport and identification card raised security concerns, he destroyed them, according to DoD information.
The fact that he owned an apartment and maintained a bank account in Morocco, and that his mother, four brothers, wife, mother-in-law and father-in-law are Moroccan citizens and residents raised concerns under Guideline B.
He raised additional concerns by failing to answer questions that pertained to his foreign travel for business and personal reasons accurately.
“Failing to answer questions correctly on the application can lead to suspicion that the responses have been intentionally falsified,” Griffith says. “In this applicant’s case, a review of the document reveals that the applicant apparently didn’t understand the wording of some questions.”
He disclosed pleasure travel, but failed to list business trips that also included pleasure travel.
“He stated that he forgot about some of his pleasure trips that he frequently combined for business and pleasure travel, and that he did not fully understand that he was required to disclose the personal portion of combined business and pleasure travel,” according to DoD records.
“An attorney experienced in security clearance law might have helped this applicant understand the questions better so they could have been answered thoroughly in the application,” Griffith says. “An attorney also might have helped ensure the applicant adequately explained the circumstances around his ownership of property in Morocco and his bank account there.”
The DoD records state the applicant had purchased the apartment for his mother, and the account was in place so the mortgage payments could be made.
Applicants who go through the security clearance application process on their own and are issued a Statement of Reasons should consult a lawyer for guidance on how to approach the hearing and appeal process, Griffith says. Otherwise, they run the risk of having their clearance denied and being forced to find another line of work.
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