SHARED INTEL: How Russia’s war mongering compromises those holding security clearances

By Ryan C. Nerney

While global commerce is an important aspect of the world economy, individuals who hold national security clearances need to be aware that some of the activities they engage in could pose a security risk and may negatively impact their security clearances.

Related: Russia takes steps to radicalize U.S. youth

Individuals who possess security clearances are not prohibited from traveling to foreign countries; however, there are certain acts and behaviors that may raise foreign influence and/or foreign preference concerns.

Under Guideline B of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines, the United States government is concerned with any potential for foreign influence. This includes contact with foreign nationals or obtaining financial or property interests in a foreign country, that could create a heightened risk for foreign exploitation.

First, there are reporting requirements which indicate that any foreign travel, aid, logistics, obtaining property in a foreign country, or other such activity must be reported to one’s security officer.

It is common for people to want to expand their financial portfolios, sometimes including investments overseas; however, that possesses a security concern as any foreign assets may be used to exert pressure or influence over individuals who possess a security clearance. in order to persuade them to divulge U.S. national security secrets.

Nerney

The conflict in Ukraine is a prime example of how engaging in global commerce and providing aid to foreign countries or foreign nationals may pose a security risk. Anybody who wants to provide aid to Ukraine could be put in a position of potentially exposing themselves to exploitation, inducement, manipulation, or pressure, which may conflict with the interests of the United States.

Guideline C of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines provides potentially disqualifying conditions in relation to participation in foreign activities, which includes serving the interests of a foreign person, group, organization, or government in any way that conflicts with the U.S. national interests.

Additionally, providing any aid, including military aid such as logistics, equipment, or fighting for Ukraine in general, while possessing a security clearance poses major security concerns under Guideline C.

This poses a risk because providing aid to a foreign government or individual could be perceived as exhibiting a foreign preference for another country.  It also opens individuals up to exploitation and may put them in a position of heightened risk, especially if they are providing this aid and are captured by foreign enemies or intelligence personnel.

The events in Ukraine have the potential to change things for security clearance holders in the United States. There is always an element of concern about foreign influence from countries like Russia and China, as these countries are typically known to target U.S. citizens to obtain classified or sensitive material.

The conflict in Ukraine has the potential to further alienate Russia and place Russia in a category much like North Korea. Any security clearance holder that has ties to Russia in the future may be met with heavier scrutiny and may find it more difficult to obtain and maintain a security clearance in the future.

About the essayist: Ryan C. Nerney, Esq. is a partner in the Ladera Ranch, California office of Tully Rinckey PLLC, where he has represented numerous clients in security clearance revocation proceedings. He has a proven record of saving clients’ jobs, as well as anticipating and resolving potential future issues with their security clearances. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (619)-357-7600.

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