Does intelligence work impact international travel?
November 17, 2010 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Does working in US intelligence or for private firms closely integrated with US intelligence impact future international employment or citizenship?

I am a US born citizen and I will very shortly be receiving a PhD in a discipline which is attractive to the US intelligence community, and during my job search, the question of whether or not to apply to governmental agencies and private intelligence organizations strongly connected to the government will not be an idle one.

However, my political viewpoint is best described as strongly socialist, and I feel that the current American political structure and zeitgeist is extremely antithetical to how I want to live my life. It feels incorrect for me to continue living in such a place, and I am extremely doubtful that US or state policies will align with my opinion. I must emphasize that this is not the place to question this line of thought - please take it as a given that this is my viewpoint.

I also realize the apparent contradiction in supporting a military industrial complex with my labor when I consider the country itself to be in the wrong. However, the US is not evil, nor is its military (for all the evil it finds itself doing), and in any case I am willing to work in such a job for a few years if no other option presents itself.

In any case, my future plans are to (if not immediately after receiving my PhD) eventually find employment in a western European country with a view to obtaining citizenship.

So I have three related questions:
1. Would obtaining employment in a private US intelligence firm (requiring top secret clearance etc.) affect my future employment or citizenship in western European countries?
2. Would obtaining employment in a US government intelligence organization affect my future employment or citizenship in western European countries?

and a very related question:

3. Do my current beliefs and desires as stated above preclude me from receiving top secret clearance or from working in one of these intelligence jobs?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is my speculation, but you're definitely not a good candidate for US security clearance. Expressing a desire to leave the US because you don't believe in it is easily enough for them to question you. All they need is some doubt to not grant you clearance.

I don't think that having clearance in the US would impact your ability to get citizenship abroad though, but it would definitely limit your ability to get clearance in another country. Not that I think you could get clearance in another country easily to begin with.
posted by blueyellow at 9:41 AM on November 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

1, and 2?
These things would likely make you highly desirable, if you going to continue that line of work that particular Western, or Eastern for that matter Europeon country. Brear in mind thought there might be hesitance, wondering if the whole thing isnt just an ill conceived way to establish you as a NOC.

3. Given the graf..."I also realize..." it seems maybe your beliefs aren't as strong as you think, that, while you disagree with much if not most of working for the US, you're fine with doing it for a while if the money is right.

Apply to RAND. You can use your skills without having to commute to Fort Meade everyday.
posted by timsteil at 9:44 AM on November 17, 2010

In answer to #3 -- your current beliefs and desires may bring out personal influences and biases in interviewers, co-workers, etc. When I was interviewing and going through the selection process for a cleared position (TS), the only things that would automatically disqualify you is if you (personally or through a group you were associated with) advocated the violent overthrow of the US government, falsified information on your application, or if you had significant ties with overseas individuals or organizations that held influence or control over you. This is a judgment call. Your desire to live overseas and become a citizen of another country might be construed as "foreign influence", especially if there are family, financial, or other ties connecting you to a foreign country.

As to 1 and 2 -- I do not know of any countries that would bar you from entering or obtaining citizenship because of US government ties. You may find it difficult, though, to obtain employment with a foreign government's intelligence agency. This could be a problem if your skillset and experience are specialized toward government intelligence work.
posted by jdwhite at 9:52 AM on November 17, 2010

After having gone through this (again) quite recently, they are pretty indifferent about your political beliefs. They DO care about a number of things which may impact you, though:

-any foreign contacts you maintain (family, friends, whatever), especially in non-allied countries
-any involvement or interest in "an organization dedicated to terrorism" or "dedicated to the use of violence or force to overthrow the U.S. Government"
-personal acts of terrorism or treasonous activities

You are required to answer a number of questions to obtain a clearance, but none of them ask you if you're a Communist, or a socialist, or a Democrat. They will look askance if you have, say, family in Libya or belong to Al Shabob.

Essentially, they want to make sure you're not corruptible or able to be blackmailed. If you have bad financial history, gambling debts, history of drug or alcohol abuse, or any other way you could be turned by being offered large sacks of cash, then you'll be denied a clearance.

I don't believe holding a clearance would affect a move to Europe. You are required, upon surrendering your clearance, to continue to uphold the oath that you had sworn to protect the information entrusted to you. Giving up your clearance doesn't give you carte blanche to blab about what you had been doing, but at the same time I don't think it'll hurt you to have a government clearance.

Much like many things in life, answer truthfully but don't offer additional information. When asked, "Are you a terrorist?", say "no". Don't say, "No, but I'm not really a fan of the government's policies and I can kind of see why they're gunning for us." I have never heard of other countries asking if you have a US Government clearance.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:56 AM on November 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

I am a US citizen and I have a UK visa for work. When I was obtaining my visa, I do not recall being asked if I worked in intelligence or if I had a security clearance. I haven't been here long enough to speak to the naturalisation process, however.
posted by sesquipedalian at 10:25 AM on November 17, 2010

What backseatpilot said, though it is not "me" but "someone I know very well" in this case.

Also, the person I know very well has had colleagues who expatriated to Yerp. I know a couple of other people who were CIA/NSA who expatriated (and a couple of people living here in the US who were members of their home nations' intelligence service).
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:58 AM on November 17, 2010

I have deep familiarity with this issue in ways I choose not to discuss here. Here are specific answers to your questions.
1. No and no. Working with an intelligence contracting firm should have no affect on your post employment choices unless there are specific clauses in your employment contract that prevent this, non-compete, etc.
2. Employment in US government intelligence organizations may very well keep you from attaining citizenship in other countries or from international employment with the idea being you could be compromised if your previous connection were known.
3. Your personal beliefs should have no bearing on your clearance unless you advocate overthrow of the US government or support their enemies. Just disliking US policies is your right as a citizen.
posted by Xurando at 1:49 PM on November 17, 2010

Might I suggest working for the military industrial complex as a US citizen stationed in western Europe?

Planning to voluntarily abdicate your US citizenship is a red flag for a US security clearance, regardless if you plan to naturalize in the UK or one of the old Warsaw-Pact countries. Working overseas on a host-nation work visa through State or Defense agency employment (or as a contractor) is much easier. (And internal opportunities might not be advertised to the rest of us.)

If you naturalize to your new country, how do you know they are willing to entrust their core intelligence secrets to you?
posted by panmunjom at 10:47 PM on November 17, 2010

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