Can I get a security clearance?
May 24, 2011 6:18 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking of applying for jobs that require a security clearance. I'm a US citizen. My wife is from a former Soviet country (not Russia), and her father was briefly in the KGB. Is this going to poison my chances of getting clearance?

My father-in-law was in the KGB for about a year before the Soviet Union broke up, and he continued on his new country's version of the KGB (which has a different acronym) until he retired, which was at least 5 years ago.

Is this going to significantly hurt my chances? Is it something I should just not mention? Or would not mentioning it hurt me more in the long run? Thanks.
posted by AlexanderPetros to Law & Government (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The ironclad rule of security clearances is you never, ever, ever hide anything. Or, more accurately: try to hide anything. The results will be bad.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:21 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

Check out this comment and the post to which it links. You'll see there the gamut of reasons for which security clearances are denied, the reasons for which they're appealed, and the reasons for which appeals are (rarely) granted and (usually) denied.
posted by matlock expressway at 6:25 PM on May 24, 2011

^ In the above, read up specifically on those cases involving Guideline B (Foreign Influence). This is also informative.
posted by matlock expressway at 6:33 PM on May 24, 2011

I wouldn't try to hide it, especially after posting this here.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:41 PM on May 24, 2011

You should get this question anonymised stat.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:48 PM on May 24, 2011

Response by poster: Maybe I should mention that my username is not connected to my real name.
posted by AlexanderPetros at 6:54 PM on May 24, 2011

I know my friends were quizzed extensively about their own foreign travel and influences to get high level clearance. If you're getting low level clearance it might be ok; but anything higher, I would say - don't quit your day job until you have your clearance in hand. It is entirely possible the agency could hire you, you quit your job, then you don't get cleared, and you are screwed.
posted by yarly at 7:05 PM on May 24, 2011

It is worth trying.

Your clearance will take longer but you never know. I have tons of cleared coworkers with foreign spouses.
posted by k8t at 7:10 PM on May 24, 2011

Mention everything.
posted by bluedaisy at 7:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Whether or not you mention it, they will interview friends and relatives, and ask them questions about foreign influences you may have.
posted by blargerz at 7:52 PM on May 24, 2011

I would actually go out of your way to mention it, when you actually fill out the SF-86--you can download one from, so you can see what you're in for.

You may find trouble getting a company to make you an offer, if they think they'll have trouble clearing you. I don't know if they will end up thinking that in this case though.
posted by stevis23 at 7:59 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's not like they won't know who your wife is, or bother to check what her immediate family does, is it?

(The thing about security clearances, I gather, is that even more than trying to figure out what your sympathies are, they're trying to figure out who has, or can obtain, leverage on you. Gambling debts, mistresses, illegal drugs, closeted homosexuality— all these things can give someone a handle to make you abuse your clearance. But note some of the examples in matlock expressway's link; someone with really close ties to a foreign government was able to hold various clearances, just not a top secret clearance.)
posted by hattifattener at 11:16 PM on May 24, 2011

As hattifattner said, the main things that get people denied are things that they are hiding... a good friend of mine was denied because he was a closeted homosexual, and that was his only issue...

as long as you are honest, and are able to fill out your 10 year history(if TS) if Secret, it's really just a glorified credit check...)

Anything above TS you get the poly and other fun stuff.

The forms say 7 years, but they really want ten years. they will have your entire background when they talk to you, make sure you include everything, including lulls in employment...
posted by fozzie33 at 5:14 AM on May 25, 2011

There is absolutely no chance in the world that they would miss this on a background investigation, so attempting to conceal it would be foolish in the extreme. The likelihood of getting cleared depends on what level clearance it is, but yes, it will potentially damage your chances. Many people with similar connections do get cleared, but it is something that will be of significant interest to them.
posted by Lame_username at 9:29 AM on May 25, 2011

The point of a security clearance is to establish whether you are a security threat, AND whether you could potentially become a security threat through blackmail or similar.

If you hide something, and they find out, you're done. If you lie, you're done.

They would probably find out anyway. Security checks tend to be pretty thorough.

tl;dr: Mention everything. Don't try to hide anything. Answer all questions truthfully. Err on the side of caution.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:35 PM on May 26, 2011

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