If you wonder why foreign influence and foreign preference continue to be concerned when considering candidates for government security clearance, you need to look no further than the case of U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Edward C. Lin.
Lin may face charges related to sharing or trying to share secret information related to national defense with Taiwan and possibly China, according to the Wall Street Journal.
He’s also being investigated by the FBI and the Navy Criminal Investigative Service on suspicion of failing to disclose foreign travel, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The allegations against him include attempting “to communicate SECRET information relating to the national defense to a representative of a foreign government,” according to the charging document.
The suspect was also charged with four counts of “wrongfully transporting material classified as SECRET” and seven counts of communicating defense information “to a person not entitled to receive said information,” according to the LA Times.
Concerns related to foreign influence and foreign preference are heightened these days, in light of terrorist attacks abroad, and terrorist threats made toward the U.S. says security clearance attorney Catie Young.
Foreign influence and foreign preference concerns are addressed in Guidelines B and C, respectively, of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information. They affect many applicants who require security clearance to perform their jobs, particularly applicants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens or whose parents immigrated to the U.S.
Lin was born in Taiwan and is a naturalized U.S. citizen. He moved to the U.S. with his parents when he was 14 years old, and became a citizen in 2008.
The concerns are over questions of divided loyalties and foreign financial interests, as well as preferences for a foreign country over the United States, Young says.
A report released in 2008 looked at how espionage by Americans has changed between 1947 and 2007, and documented changes and trends in American espionage since 1990. Researchers found that since 1990, offenders were more likely to be naturalized citizens, and to have foreign ties.
The report also stated:
“Their espionage is more likely to be motivated by divided loyalties. Twice as many American espionage offenders since 1990 have been civilians than members of the military, fewer held Top Secret while more held Secret clearances and 37 percent had no security clearance giving them access to classified information. Two-thirds of American spies since 1990 have volunteered.
Also since 1990, the percentage of American spies with foreign attachments (relatives or close friends overseas) increased to 58 percent and those with foreign business or professional connections jumped to 50 percent. From less than 10 percent before 1990 who had cultural ties to foreign countries, that percentage with foreign cultural ties increased to 50 percent.”
Being a naturalized citizen or being the child of immigrants isn’t a guarantee that your security clearance application will be denied.
“You just need to be forthright with all information on the application,” Young says. “When there are questions regarding your application or information you’re concerned about providing, we always recommend consulting an attorney who specializes in this area of law.”