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PSH-14-0010 - In the Matter of Personnel Security

On June 17, 2014, an OHA Administrative Judge issued a decision finding that the individual should be granted a security clearance after she determined that the individual had mitigated the security concerns associated with her close and continuing contact with family members in a foreign country and her continuing connections to other persons and entities in that foreign country.

The Administrative Judge first found that the individual does not have a relationship with her mother-in-law, father-in-law or sister-in-law, and thereby determined that it was unlikely that she can be put in a position of having to choose between their interests and the interests of the U.S.  She further found that the individual has no sense of loyalty towards her in-laws, and for this reason, found there is no conflict of interest present. Finally, she determined that because the individual has not had contact with her in-laws since 2008, the risk of foreign influence or exploitation is not likely.

With regard to the individual’s parents, the Administrative Judge determined that based upon her evaluation of the individual and her witnesses’ demeanor and credibility, the individual will resolve any potential conflict between her loyalty to her parents and to the U.S. in favor of the In reaching this finding, the Administrative Judge opined that the individual’s reaction, if approached by a foreign adversary targeting U.S. protected information, would be as she related, i.e. she would go to the security office at the DOE contractor.  The Administrative Judge gave considerable weight to the testimony of: (1) a counterintelligence official who stated that the individual complied with all his instructions he gave her when she traveled to the Foreign Country in 2012; (2) an Authorized Derivative Classifier who reported that the individual is very proactive about obtaining approval for unclassified publications and carefully complies with all DOE rules and the rules of other agencies that have equity in information that she handles, and (3) a former manager who related that the individual “knows the difference between right and wrong and it’s couched within being an American citizen.” Id. at 29. 

With regard to the individual’s brother, the Administrative Judge decided that the individual had testified convincingly that she is not close to her brother, and that she only communicates with him via email on holidays and birthdays. Under these circumstances, the Administrative Judge determined that the individual did not display divided loyalty and was not vulnerable to coercion from her brother.

The Administrative Judge also concluded that there was nothing sinister about the individual’s recruitment of foreign nationals with ties to a foreign university. The individual was required to recruit employees as part of her job and did so, on an international scale, with the encouragement, knowledge and approval of her supervisors given the scarcity of candidates with the requisite subject matter expertise needed. She did not have any hiring authority and made no hiring decisions. In view of all the evidence before the Administrative Judge, she held that the individual mitigated the security concerns associated with the allegations regarding her “recruitment” of foreign nationals for jobs at a DOE contractor.

The Administrative Judge also determined that the individual’s contact with her father’s employer is infrequent, thereby reducing the likelihood that she could be the subject of foreign influence or exploitation.

She also found that one of the allegations are issue was lacking in a factual basis.  Specifically, she pointed to the allegation that the individual presented U.S. government funded research in 2005 to her father’s government employer, finding (1) there is a stipulation of record that the individual’s father’s employer is not a government employer; (2) the presentation made by the individual in 2005 was her doctoral thesis, which was not U.S. government funded research; and (3) the individual received permission from the DOE contractor to present the doctoral thesis in the Foreign Country and at the foreign research institute.

With regard to the allegation that the individual met with a former professor in 2012, the Administrative Judge found that the individual proactively sought the counsel of a counterintelligence official prior to her trip. That official provided logistical guidance to the individual on this subject, and the individual complied with his advice.

In the end, the Administrative Judge found that the individual is a loyal U.S. citizen with an overwhelming preference to be in this country. She held that the individual’s political, professional and social interests are aligned with this country only, and that she is committed to American values and traditions. The Administrative Judge also determined that the individual is a dedicated, loyal employee with a strong sense of right and wrong. Considering the “total person” concept, the Administrative Judge held that individual’s “heart and mind” are allied with the U.S. and that if she is ever faced with the choice of deciding between the interests of the U.S. and that of her foreign national friends, family members or the Foreign Country, the evidence supports a finding that she will choose the U.S. interests.

Accordingly, the Administrative Judge concluded that the Individual had resolved all the security concerns at issue.

Ann S. Augustyn - Administrative Judge