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Guideline B: Foreign Influence

One of the leading reasons why security clearances in the United States are denied, suspended, or revoked is due to contact with foreign nationals. The overarching concern that agencies have with respect to National Security Adjudicative Guideline B – “Foreign Influence” – is whether or not your contact with a foreign national and/or your financial interest in a foreign country could lead you to compromise classified or sensitive information. Thus, Guideline B focuses on: (1) your relationships with foreign nationals; and (2) your business, financial, and property interests in foreign countries.

With today’s global economy, it can be almost impossible not to have some sort of foreign contact.  Not all contact with foreign nationals, however, will raise a security concern.  In determining whether your contact will raise a national security issue, the agency will evaluate whether or not your contact is close and continuing as well as whether or not the foreign national is an individual with whom you are “bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation.”  See 32 C.F.R. 147.4, Guideline B, Foreign Influence. A foreign national is defined any person who is not a citizen or national of the U.S.

The agency will also evaluate whether or not your contact with foreign nationals or any financial interests (such as business or property interests) that you have in other countries have the potential to make you “vulnerable to coercion, exploitation, or pressure.”  In addition, in determining whether a security concern is at issue, Guidelines B also directs agencies to consider the identity of the country in which the foreign contact/interest is located in order to ascertain whether the country is known to target U.S. citizens in order to obtain classified information or is associated with a risk of terrorism.

GUIDELINE B: FOREIGN INFLUENCE continued

As can be seen, Guideline B of the Adjudicative Guidelines has the potential to affect many individuals.  For example, individuals who are naturalized citizens, who have friends or family members residing abroad, who cohabitate with non-citizens, or who have foreign business interests might be to affected by Guideline B.

Examples of foreign influence considerations that might disqualify someone include:

  • Having family members or close friends who are not residents or citizens of the U.S.;
  • Having connections to foreign individuals, groups, or governments that could create a potential conflict of interest;
  • Failing to properly report associations with foreign individuals, groups, or governments;
  • The existence of counterintelligence information which reveals that a person’s access to classified information could pose a risk to national security;
  • Cohabitating with individuals that who are influenced by a foreign government;
  • Having substantial business, financial, or property interests in a foreign country;
  • Associating with known or suspected foreign intelligence agents;
  • Any indications that foreign individuals are attempting to increase an individual’s vulnerability to future acts of coercion, manipulation, or inducement; and
  • Engaging in conduct that may make an individual vulnerable to foreign coercion, manipulation, or inducement.

Mitigating Conditions – If an applicant’s conduct raises a concern regarding his or her foreign influence, each of the following conditions, as applicable, could mitigate any security concern:

  • Showing that the contact with the foreign national is minimal and infrequent;
  • Showing that the foreign national does not work for a foreign government or agency;
  • Showing that the country in which the foreign national resides is an ally to the U.S.;
  • Showing that any contact with a foreign national was due to official U.S. government business or orders;
  • Showing that you have promptly complied with all reporting requirements regarding contact with foreign persons; and
  • Showing that the amount of your assets in foreign business or property are low.

Discussion – GUIDELINE B: FOREIGN INFLUENCE CONTINUED

Section 19 of Standard Form 86 (SF 86), for example, asks:

Do you have, or have you had, close and/or continuing contact with a foreign national within the last seven (7) years with whom you, or your spouse, or cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, common interests, and/or obligation? Include associates as well as relatives, not previously listed in Section 18?

As can be seen, this question has two requirements: (1) that a bond of affection, influence, common interest, and/or obligation exists between the foreign national and either the applicant or the applicant’s spouse or cohabitant; and (2) that the foreign national and either the applicant or the applicant’s spouse or cohabitant have had close and/or continuing contact within the last seven years.

Thus, if a bond of affection, influence, common interest, and/or obligation does not exist, then the applicant is not required to list the foreign national, regardless of whether or not their contact is close and/or continuing.  Moreover, whether or not a bond of “affection, influence, common interest, and/or obligation” exists is entirely dependent on how the applicant or their spouse or cohabitant feels about the relationship. In other words, an applicant is not required to guess how said relationship would be perceived by an adjudicator.  However, the more recent additional of the term “common interests” in this phrase was intended to broaden those relationships subject to coverage.

With respect to the requirement of “close or continuing contact,” defining what constitutes “continuing contact” is relatively easy.  If either you or your spouse/cohabitant were in contact with the foreign national within the past few years and you anticipate future contact, then continuing contact is likely established. 

The regulations, however, do not define what constitutes “close” contact.  In most close relationships, the parties have mutual knowledge of personal information, such as personal history and family history.  Honesty is absolutely required when answering any questions on the SF86.  However, if you do not know personal information about the foreign national and if you have doubts about whether a bond exists, be careful before you list them on the SF86.  Merely listing (or not listing) foreign nationals could affect the granting of a clearance.  On the one hand, failure to list a foreign national that an applicant should have listed on the SF86 will be perceived as a dishonest attempt to try to conceal such a relationship.  On the other hand, listing a foreign national that an applicant should not have listed on the SF86 it will be difficult to later dispel that a “bond” exists.

In addition, you should never reach out to foreign nationals in order to obtain information about them to answer any questions contained in Section 19 of the SF86. Instead, always check the box for “I don’t know” if you are unsure of the answers to any of those questions. The reason for this is simple: if your contact with that foreign national is found to pose a concern, the more you know about that person, the harder it will be for you to later claim that you do not have a close relationship. 

For those applicants who are naturalized citizens, in determining whether or not an applicant is able to resist foreign influence, adjudicators might consider whether:

  • The applicant applied for U.S. citizenship as soon as they became eligible;
  • Expresses an interest to permanently reside in the U.S.;
  • Observes U.S. holidays;
  • Participates in their local community; and
  • Socializes with individuals outside of their ethnic group.

Security Clearance Denial Lawyer – Nationwide Representation 

If your security clearance is denied, suspended, or revoked based on any of the considerations discussed above, Brett O’Brien Law, LLC can help you prove your allegiance. We handle security clearance cases through the country. Contact us today for a free consultation.