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Ask the Lawyer: Foreign family ties: How to dispel concerns and earn your clearance

Apr. 26, 2012 - 05:03PM   |   Last Updated: Apr. 26, 2012 - 05:03PM  |  
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Q. My military career has hit a snag. Not to sound childish, but it's my dad's fault. He lives in China and has since I was a child. We rarely see each other but talk every few months. This relationship is causing security clearance problems. What should I do?

A. Given the mounting economic and military rivalries between the U.S. and China, such familial ties are bound to raise foreign influence concerns and hold up security clearance applications. But resentment toward foreign family members who prompt security clearance denials or revocations may be displaced.

The first foreign influence concern listed in the security clearance guidelines (official title: Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information), addresses contact with family members who are residents in or citizens of a foreign country.

Under Guideline B, contact with such family members could disqualify a service member for security clearance if it "creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion."

But a family member's mere presence in a country such as China, India or Pakistan may not prevent a service member from obtaining or retaining a security clearance.

Does your father belong to the Communist Party? Does he work for the Chinese government or military? Does he have contact with people who do?

If the answer to any or all of these questions is no, then it is imperative that you, with the help of a national security law attorney, bring these facts to the attention of an adjudicator with your branch's Central Adjudication Facility.

When responding to a Letter of Intent/Statement of Reasons, you should aim to mitigate foreign influence concerns regarding your father by showing, as Guideline B states, it's unlikely that you "will be placed in a position of having to choose between the interests of a foreign individual, group, organization, or government and the interests of the U.S."

To further mitigate such concerns, you, through your attorney, should detail the casual nature of your communications with your father, to illustrate the unlikelihood of any risk of foreign influence or exploitation.

Lastly, try to quash any doubts the adjudicator may hold about where your loyalties lie. Stress how long you've been an American citizen, the service you've done for your country, and whether you have any family in the U.S.

Finally, consult with a security clearance representation lawyer, who can help you raise these points during the adjudication process.

Mathew B. Tully is an Iraq War veteran and founding partner of the law firm Tully Rinckey PLLC (http://www.fedattorney.com">www.fedattorney.com). Email questions to askthelawyer@militarytimes.com">askthelawyer@militarytimes.com. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.

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