Will Aiding or Fighting for Ukraine Impact My Security Clearance?

Posted by Ryan C. Nerney, Esq.

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 maintain a security clearance under both Guidelines B Foreign Influence and C Foreign Preference of the security clearance adjudicative guidelines.

Under Guideline B, 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 Foreign Preference 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.

What we’re not talking about is aid to a U.S. based organization, such as a financial donation to a group like the American Red Cross — as long as the organization is not providing direct aid to a terrorist or dictator.  

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.

Find more articles about safeguarding your security clearance here.

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.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 15, 2022 11:29 am

5 thoughts on “Will Aiding or Fighting for Ukraine Impact My Security Clearance?”

  1. I think this article would be stronger if it made a few more suggestions of things that one could do without impacting the security clearance, in order to provide better contrast. The author suggests that donating money to the Red Cross would be okay, but there are no other ideas listed. What about donating money to an organization that provides self-defense weapons to Ukraine and civilians? What about financially supporting a friend who does not have a clearance, goes to Ukraine to fight? What about participating in a Grassroots campaign to persuade Congress and or the president to support Ukraine more directly? What about volunteering for an organization that helps Ukrainian refugees in nearby countries?

  2. Dude, give Ryan a break. He provided a lot of great and useful advice for free. I believe his goal was to keep those with a security clearance out of trouble not list ways to split hairs and get around laws.

  3. Hi Webster,

    Thank you for your questions. It is important to note that in security clearance cases, each situation is viewed on a case by case basis, so there is no one size fits all answer. However, it really comes down to the organization or individuals themselves. While donating to the Red Cross for humanitarian aid would likely not be an issue, donating to an organization that provides military aid could be perceived as supporting a foreign government because the money you donate goes directly to a foreign government’s military. Similar situation with financially supporting a person or organization who is providing military aid (fighting) for a foreign government. While you are not directly providing financial aid to a foreign government, you are indirectly doing that, which could pose a concern and leave you open to coercion, manipulation or duress. For instance, if you provide financial aid to a friend fighting for Ukraine, and he is captured, your relationship and financial support could be used to exert pressure on you to divulge national security secrets. Also, generally speaking, there should be no security concern with your involvement in domestic politics in the situation you posed above. Pertaining to your final question, as long as the organization that is assisting Ukrainian refugees is an American organization that provides humanitarian aid (such as the Red Cross), there should not be any issue with that. However, if your volunteer work requires you to travel overseas, there are still reporting requirements that need to be reviewed. It really depends on what your volunteer work entails and what organization it is.

  4. Thanks for your concern, Tony, but I’m not trying to split hairs and no one is even discussing “getting around laws” here. I was trying to suggest a way to make his discussion more helpful. By sorting almost all examples into the “Don’t do this” side of the line and having only a single example of something very different on the “Definitely OK” side, there isn’t much guidance for what else might be OK.

    His responses to my questions show not only whether those actions are problematic or not, but also give some guidance on how to analyze others, and I appreciate them.

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