Foreign Influence, Israel and the Security Clearance Process

04.25.06 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

Many people who have tangled with the security clearance system have found it bafflingly inconsistent and unpredictable. New research (pdf) on the role of foreign influence in security clearance disputes, particularly those involving Israel, finds an empirical basis for that perception.

According to official guidelines for granting security clearances for access to classified information, foreign influence or allegiance can understandably be a disqualifying factor leading to denial or revocation of clearance.

Among the security clearance disputes involving foreign influence that are presented for adjudication to the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), “there appear to be an unusually large number of Israel cases,” wrote attorney Sheldon I. Cohen in a recent study.

“Since 1996, when DOHA began posting its decisions to its web site, until February 2006,… there have been 47 cases identifying Israel as the foreign country in question. These cases have resulted in 18 applicants being granted clearances and 29 being denied.”

Cohen, a specialist in security clearance law and policy, scrutinized many of these Israel-related cases to deduce the larger lessons they hold about the clearance adjudication process.

“After review of such an extensive body of case law one would expect there to be some predictability, but there is none,” he concluded.

“If DOHA would provide its policies in deciding and appealing these cases, if indeed there are such policies, applicants and their counsel would have some idea of the likelihood of obtaining a clearance more than simply a roll of the dice.”

Instead, Cohen found, “one is left with a sense of arbitrariness and unpredictability.”

See “Israel: Foreign Influence – Foreign Preference Cases, A Review of DOHA Decisions” by Sheldon I. Cohen, March 2006.

See also this broader consideration of “Foreign Influence and Foreign Preference Considerations in National Security Clearance Decisions”.

A new Department of Defense Inspector General report (pdf) found that the perennially troubled security clearance systems is still… troubled.

“All 26 DoD military and civilian requesting activities we visited experienced difficulties in effectively and efficiently processing personnel security investigation requests for military and civilian personnel.”

“As a result, requesting activities may continue to experience delays in the security clearance process, which may impact national security, completion of critical DoD missions, and support of the warfighter.”

See “DoD Personnel Security Clearance Process at Requesting Activities,” DoD Inspector General audit report, April 19, 2006 (2 MB PDF file).