By John V. Berry, Esq., www.berrylegal.com
We live in a digital age. It seems that almost everyone these days uses Facebook or Twitter, Instagram, etc. to communicate with the world. The question being raised, these days, is to what extent (and how often) will security clearance authorities review the social media accounts of security clearance applicants and holders in the future as part of the government’s current upgrades to the security clearance review process. Right now, these questions are being debated by the government.
Experimentation by the DNI with Social Media in Clearance Reviews
Reviewing the possibility of including social media reviews as part of security clearance processing is the Office of the Director for National Intelligence (DNI). According to a number of news accounts, National Counterintelligence Executive Bill Evanina has undertaken to review the feasibility of including social media evaluations as part of the security clearance process. One consideration being given consideration by Mr. Evanina’s office is whether or not it this type of review is realistic and would be useful.
There have been ongoing trials of social media review with volunteers by the DNI to see how such a system would function and whether it would work in the real world. The trial apparently includes a review of all public entries in social media by volunteer clearance holders. For instance, the trial review includes essentially a Google search into publicly available information online by a security clearance holder to see if the information gives rise to security concerns. According to one news account, by Mark Rockwell of The Business of Federal Technology, the social media trial caused a deeper investigation into 28% of the clearance holders. FCW Article
How Social Media Might Impact a Security Clearance
If social media reviews are ultimately incorporated into the security clearance process, a number of questions come to mind as attorneys that represent security clearance applicants and holders. These include: (1) will individuals just be checked for public social media entries?; (2) will the government eventually attempt to ask clearance holders for their password and credentials?; and (3) how often will such checks be conducted (continually, annually, every 5 years, etc.)?
The issues that could arise from social media reviews in the context of holding a security clearance could be significant. For instance, could having too many friends on Facebook from foreign countries cause a foreign influence concern? Could having a friend on Facebook who is engaged or associated with criminal or improper activities reflect poorly on a clearance decision? Could a statement by a clearance holder made on Twitter be taken out of context and form the basis for general personal conduct issue? While the process is far off, and may not come to fruition in the final government upgrade, these are legitimate questions to ask.
In the interim, clearance holders might be advised to be careful on their social media accounts. In the end, the DNI might not decide to move forward with such a system, but it is important to keep abreast of such developments as pending changes to the security clearance process continue.
When an individual is facing security clearance issues it is important to obtain legal advice and potential representation. Our law firm advises individuals in the security clearance process. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at (703) 668-0070. Our Facebook page is located at http://facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc