By John V. Berry, www.berrylegal.com
Under new legislation passed by Congress in December, 2015, federal agencies will begin focusing on social media information as part of the security clearance review process. The new provisions were placed in a 2016 Omnibus appropriations bill (see Chapter 110—Enhanced Personnel Security Programs) by Congress. Essentially, the new law adds these new requirements and also establishes a more intensive personnel security clearance program for federal agencies.
Social Media Information Sought
One of the key provisions in the new legislation requires that clearance adjudicators consider social media as part of the security clearance process. The legislation does not specify how federal agencies should use, gather, and/or evaluate social media data that they obtain from clearance holders. These rules will be forthcoming in the future. The new provisions are likely in response to cases in the media where issues that could have been identified through social media might have led to suspended security clearances had authorities been aware of this information. The new provisions may lead cleared employees to be more careful with the information that they post on social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Other Provisions of the New Security Clearance Law
The new law also requires that federal agencies establish plans for investigation of existing security clearance holders at least twice within a 5-year period. Not many details were provided by Congress in the legislation regarding these additional checks, but it is expected that federal agencies will conduct automated or random checks of a clearance holder within this timeframe. The rules will likely be set for this process in the coming months by the Director of National Intelligence. The goal of the new legislation seems to be in moving to a more continuing process of evaluating eligibility for security clearances.
The new legislation also requires that agencies seek more information regarding clearance holders, including from other public sources such as commercial and consumer reporting databases. These new sources can include, but not be limited to, criminal, credit, and/or financial, watch lists and civil legal records. The new law requires implementation of these changes to the security clearance process within the next five years.
When an individual is engaged in the security clearance process, it is important to have legal representation. Our law firm represents 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 https://www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.