DNI Directive Eases Clearance Restrictions on Foreign Ties

The Director of National Intelligence issued a directive (pdf) this month that will make it easier for a person whose spouse or immediate family is not a U.S. citizen to gain a security clearance for access to intelligence information.

The new policy lowers a barrier that has long impeded intelligence agency hiring of qualified area experts, linguists and others simply because of their family ties.

Under the prior policy (Director of Central Intelligence Directive 6/4), one of the criteria for obtaining access to classified intelligence was that “The individual’s immediate family must also be US citizens.”  Although an exception to that standard could be granted by a senior official, it was only permitted in case of a “compelling need.”

Now, a clearance for those with foreign ties can be granted without a “compelling need,” though it may still involve additional processing.

“Subjects who have immediate family members or other persons who are non-United States citizens to whom the subject is bound by affection or obligation may be eligible for access to SCI and other controlled access program information as the result of a condition, deviation, or waiver from personnel security standards.”

The new policy was presented in Intelligence Community Directive 704, signed by DNI J. Michael McConnell on October 1, 2008.

The new policy is part of a ongoing transition towards “risk management” (as opposed to “risk avoidance”).  This is an approach to security policy which accepts a modicum of increased risk in order to advance mission performance.

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