The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Normandy (CG) 60 sail in the Arabian Sea, in this US Navy photo taken April 16, 2015.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK – US Defense Department spokesman Mark Wright told The Jerusalem Post on Thursday that security clearance could be denied to an applicant with relatives in any foreign country.
“If a security-clearance applicant has relatives or other close connections to people in any foreign country, this could potentially disqualify that person from being eligible for a security clearance,” he said.
But, he added, “The Federal Adjudicative Guidelines do not call for any special scrutiny for applicants with relatives in Israel.”
Wright spoke on Thursday in response to the recent protest by Jewish organizations against the US Navy’s denial of security clearance for US Jews who have ties to Israel.
The practice came to light last month after a retired dentist from New York, Dr. Gershon Pincus, who had received a recommendation approving the necessary clearance to work at a naval clinic in Saratoga Springs, was then denied clearance because his mother and siblings live in Israel.
According to the navy, this is a security concern due to “divided loyalties.”
Pincus’s story became known after it appeared in The Wall Street Journal
on December 16.
Wright explained that eligibility for access to classified information or assignment to sensitive duties is determined by considering the federal “Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information.”
These guidelines are approved by the president of the United States and they apply to all civilian and military persons, consultants, contractors and others who require access to classified information.
He added that the process of determining whether someone should or should not have security clearance includes “the careful weighing of a number of variables known as the whole-person concept.
“All available, reliable information about the person, past and present, favorable and unfavorable, is considered in reaching a clearance determination,” Wright said.
Approximately 70-75% of applicants are granted the requested security clearance eligibility, the Defense Department said.
“Eligibility for the remainder of the applicants is either denied, revoked or they drop out of the process prior to completion for a variety of reasons, such as a change in job duties that no longer require access to classified information,” Wright explained.
While he was not able to discuss Pincus, Wright noted that all potentially disqualifying information appears in a Statement of Reasons, which is provided to the individual applying, in full transparency.
After Pincus’s story was published, Rabbi Abba Cohen, the Washington director of Agudath Israel of America, wrote a letter to US Secretary of the Navy Raymond Mabus.
In the letter, Cohen said the denial of security clearance to US Jews with ties to Israel because of “divided loyalties” reflects an “anti-Semitic canard.”
Last month, the American Jewish Committee described the practice as “disturbing and discriminatory.”
Wright pointed out that people in Pincus’s position may appeal the security clearance rejection.