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Will aiding or fighting for Ukraine impact my security clearance?

Armed Forces of Ukraine soldiers assault an OPFOR controlled mock village during training at Rapid Trident 2021. (Staff Sgt. David Carnahan/U.S. Army)
March 23, 2022

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The conflict in Ukraine has brought forth opportunities for humanitarian and military assistance in all types and forms. While this is an admirable action, if you hold a security clearance and attempt to provide any aid to Ukraine, this is very likely to negatively impact your ability to obtain and maintain a security clearance under both Guidelines B and C of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines.

Under Guideline B of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines, the government is concerned with any potential for foreign influence, including contact with foreign nationals, that could create a heightened risk for foreign exploitation. First, there are reporting requirements which indicate that any foreign travel, aid, logistics, or other such activity must be reported to one’s security officer. This poses a major concern for anybody who holds a security clearance and is attempting to communicate with any Ukrainian officials in order to provide aid. Anybody who wants to provide aid to Ukraine could be put in a position of potentially exposing themselves to exploitation, inducement, manipulation, or pressure, which may conflict with the interests of the United States.

Guideline C of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines provides potentially disqualifying conditions in relation to participation in foreign activities, which includes serving the interests of a foreign person, group, organization, or government in any way that conflicts with the U.S. national interests. Additionally, providing any aid, including military aid such as logistics, equipment, or fighting for Ukraine in general, while possessing a security clearance would bring forth concerns under this guideline. This is a concern because providing any aid to a foreign government could be perceived as exhibiting a foreign preference for another country other than the United States.

The process of even getting to Ukraine to provide assistance poses major security concerns as well. An applicant would have to apply to join the Foreign Legion of Territorial Defense of Ukraine, which would require an applicant to go through an interview and then enlist in this Foreign Legion. Simple contact with the foreign government of Ukraine would pose a problem; however, enlisting in a foreign military unit, which is what would be required to provide military assistance to Ukraine, would be acting to serve in the interests of a foreign government and directly conflicts with U.S. national security interests. In fact, there is a possibility of being captured by Russian forces while providing aid to Ukraine, thus putting a federal security clearance holder in direct conflict with U.S. interests and exposing them to the possibility of being subjected to intense pressure, manipulation, or coercion to divulge national security secrets. 

It is admirable that one would want to provide assistance to Ukraine as that country is presently experiencing an extremely difficult situation. However, providing aid to a foreign country, regardless of the circumstances, will cause significant security concerns and could potentially impact your ability to obtain and/or maintain a security clearance.  

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Ryan C. Nerney, Esq. is a Partner in the Ladera Ranch, California office of Tully Rinckey PLLC, where he focuses his practice primarily on national security law, with experience in federal employment and military matters. Ryan represents clients who have security clearance issues against agencies such as DHS, NSA, DIA, DOD, NRO, and DOE. He has represented numerous clients in security clearance revocation proceedings and has a proven record of saving clients’ jobs, as well as anticipating and resolving potential future issues with their security clearances. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (619)-357-7600.