Monday, May 30, 2016

Social Media and Security Clearance Investigations

This month the Office of Director of National Intelligence announced that a person's social media pages can be reviewed during the security clearance investigation process. You might remember that in an earlier article we had covered this possibility, explaining some of the red flags that could occur in social media content. 

In the previous article, we discussed activities such as: pictures of partying, un-vetted non-US person friends or contacts, or other social media activity that could lead to questioning allegiance, decision making capability, or risky behavior could cause concern during an investigation.

New Opportunities for Investigators

Let's look at some other possibilities that could arise as a result of the new policy. In this new policy, the investigator could be forearmed with more information about the subject in a more timely manner. The social media pre-investigation research could provide a more aggressive investigation capability. The investigation now has information readily available that had never existed previously. The subject's social media profiles can provide the investigator with more information than normally available in the SF-86 Questionnaire for National Security Positions and interviews. 

The SF-86 provides raw data for the investigator to research and the investigator builds a story based on records and interviews. Investigators typically conduct background research on financial, court and education records. They also interview the subjects and references based on information provided in the SF-86. 

With social media, the investigator now has access into behavior, habits, side business, friendships, after duty lifestyle, travel experiences and more. The investigator has the subject's world at their fingertips and are no longer limited by what the subject wants them to know.

Repercussions - The investigator can learn more about the subject than the subject disclosed on the SF-86.

  •         Foreign travel not claimed-Go to Canada, Mexico, Bahamas, or Europe recently? You have the posts and pics to prove it. Could be a problem if you never notified security or disclosed foreign travel on the SF-86.
  •         Disloyalty to the organization-Posts about the work environment can raise flags as a disgruntled employee or possible insider threat.
  •         Interaction with Non-US citizens-Problems can result form collecting likes, friends or contacts without vetting them
  •         Side businesses-Posts about side businesses or sources of revenue not claimed on the SF-86 could cause questions as an entire section of the SF-86 addresses income sources.
  •         Hidden lifestyle-Groups, pages, and other social media memberships may raise red flags if their ties are questionable.

Solutions - What to do about the social media risks

Closing social media accounts and going of the grid is one option. However, before you go removing social media posts or tuning out entirely, there are a few things you can do to keep engaged and do so responsibly.
  •         Disengage from social media
  •         Complete SF-86 as thoroughly and accurately as possible balancing activities with what is avaialbe on your social media sites
  •         Make your postings private
  •         Only post information that demonstrates low risk to violating the 13 Adjudicative Guidelines
  •         Be sure to pay a visit to the security manager and on the SF-86 to close the loop.
  •         Reconcile all business and revenue sources.
  •         Consider not posting any work related activities.
  •         Be sure you can explain likes, friendships, or relationships with non US persons if they come up in the investigation. 

Social media can and should be used responsibly. It is not the place to go to tell your problems, woes, join un-vetted groups or friendships, or talk about your work with abandon. Doing so may raise awareness to problems with any of the 13 Adjudicative Guidelines. Being aware that social media posts can be used in the investigation process, posting responsibly can prevent adjudication problems.

Jeffrey W. Bennett, ISP is the owner of Red Bike Publishing Red Bike Publishing . He regularly consults, presents security training, and recommends export compliance and intellectual property protection countermeasures. He is an accomplished writer of non-fiction books, novels and periodicals. Jeff is an expert in security and has written many security books including: "Insider's Guide to Security Clearances" and "DoD Security Clearances and Contracts Guidebook", "ISP Certification-The Industrial Security Professional Exam Manual", and NISPOM/FSO Training".

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