Dual citizenship precludes security clearance? Huh??

I found a very troubling statement within the following news story:


to wit: “The Army Reserves says it is implementing new rules that prevent anyone who holds dual citizenship from having top security clearance.”

I’ve come across other such stories on the internet. I think this is shortsighted as a policy for the following reasons: Sometimes you are considered a dual citizen by default, it’s not always up to you.

For example: All Jews and descendants of Jews are considered Israeli citizens, by Israel, automatically. So doesn’t this mean that no Jewish person born in the U.S. can have top security clearace?? No person whose grandfather or father is an Irish citizen can have top security clearance?? Mexican? The list goes on. Our country is a nation of immigrants, many of whom are first or second generation: wouldn’t this exclude a whole swath of native citizens from public service, who, by accident of ancestry and birth, are dual citizens of the U.S. and another country?

I don’t think you can be considered a citizen of a country that you don’t want to be the citizen of. Specifically WRT Isarael, every Jew is not automatically a citizen, but they have the right to become a citizen upon immigration.

I don’t know exactly how you do it but you can renounce your citizenship if you don’t want to be a dual. My wife became a citizen of the US about 10 years ago but never renounced her prior citizenship (of a country that you wouldn’t particularly want to be known as a citizen of at the moment), just because it wouldn’t be worth the effort. Ironically, due to the laws there, she was a citizen because her father was a citizen of there, and she actually never set foot in the country. But since she was not born in the US and the country of her birth does not grant citizenship by birth (as does the US), her passport at the time corresponded to her only legal citizenship.

Although now I wonder how that might affect the chances of my pending security clearance :eek:

from http://www.richw.org/dualcit/faq.html#natrnc

“It is interesting to note that Israel’s “Law of Return” (under which any Jew may immigrate to and become a citizen of Israel) confers Israeli citizenship automatically, without the immigrant having to apply for it, attend any ceremony, or swear any oath of allegiance. The Israeli law may originally have been written this way to encourage American Jews to move to Israel; they could, in theory, argue that they had not explicitly requested Israeli citizenship and were thus still entitled to keep their US citizenship.”

Yes, you can. Countries can set their own rules for citizenship and if that includes identifying you as a citizen against your wishes, so be it. They may not be able to enforce this identification, but that’s a different matter.

One example: Ireland. These excerpts from its Department of Justice website clearly show the difference between being a citizen and merely being entitled to citizenship (all emphases added):

When my son graduated from college in 1988 he spoke to an NSA recruiter who informed him that in order to work for them, he would have to renounce his Canadian citizenship. So this is hardly a new policy.

As for Israel, yes they automatically confer citizenship on immigrants after a certain amount of time (I think it was a year) and this policy originated as a response to the US policy of automatically removing the citizenship of anyone who swore citizenship to a foreign country. I believe that this policy was eventually ruled unconstitutional by the SCOTUS.

My wife knew someone who had been born in France during WWII and was afraid to enter France for fear of being drafted. He was a French citizen, involuntarily, although he had spent nearly all his life in the US. So you can be a citizen involuntarily of a country that does not recognize renunciations. Every country has its own citizenship rules and they enforce it on all citizens within their jurisdiction.

Specific to Israel:

  1. You are not a citizen of Israel if you don’t either:
    [ul]a. Live here OR
    b. Qualify for citizenship (e.g., child of a non-resident citizen) and request it.[/ul]
  2. A Jew who comes to Israel may be offered citizenship rather than having to request it - this is, as noted above, due to previous US policy. Many Ex-Americans were considered “residents” for years, until the law change in the US, since they declined to request citizenship when they came to Israel. After the US law forbidding dual citizenship was repealed, a list of these was compiled, and they were then offered Israeli citizenship, which most accepted.

Perhaps this episode - around 1980(?) - is what people have in mind when they say Israel “automitically confers” citizenship.

As for the OP - I know that in the past some Israelis have achieved American security clearance at relatively high levels; I don’t know about the future. Also, some duals (or non-Israeli citizens) have achieved Israeli security clearance - so it works both ways.
I would certainly say that the basis for awarding security clearance should be individual inspection of the nominee, rather than looking at their paperwork…


My mother is Swedish. By that fact, I am automatically entitled to Swedish citizenship. But I have never made any effort to make a claim to that citizenship, and I’m simply not interested in doing so. So in the answer to the question about excluding the offspring of immigrants from public service, me and my security clearance are just fine.

And as far as having citizenship “forced” upon someone, what hogwash. There is ample opportunity for any person to let it be known that he/she does not wish to be the citizen of a second country, well before any background investigation would begin. Presenting a letter signed by that person to the embassy of whatever country, sent upon graduation from high school or college, for example, essentially stating that “I don’t want to be a part of your non-American country anymore” would surely factor into the security investigator’s calculations as to whether that person owes any loyalty to the other country.

You don’t have to "claim"citizenship to be a citizen by default. If someone asks you if you ever were a dual citizen of the U.S. and another country how would you answer this question?

There is no such thing as “claiming” citizenship - you are either automatically born a citizen, or you have to apply as a naturalized citizen. You don’t need paperwork in order for a country to consider you its citizen. Many people seem to labor under the misconception that you have to get a passport or something to be a dual citizen.

If you are born in the U.S., you are automatically a citizen - you don’t have to do anything - you don’t have to get a passport unless you leave the country, etc. In other countries, it’s the same thing, only some countries consider the children of citizens, citizens the same way that the U.S. considers people born on its soil, citizens. As Ruadh stated above: “If either of your parents was an Irish citizen at the time of your birth, you are an Irish citizen” Are you saying the Irish Department of Justice doesn’t know its own laws? It doesn’t say “you have a right to claim citizenship” it says you ARE a citizen.

My issue was with the blanket statement that dual citizenship would disqualify you for security clearance, instead of saying something like: “loyalty to another country would disqualify you for top security clearance”.

It actually is possible to be an Israeli citizen without realizing it. When I lived in Israel, my roommate was an American from New Jersey. She was born in New Jersey. Her dad is an Israeli, her mom is an American. As far as she knew, she qualified for Israeli citizenship, but had never taken advantage of this. She didn’t have an Israeli passport, national ID card, and had never applied for army exemption. So she was extremely shocked when she went to apply for a visa extension and discovered that the Ministry of the Interior had her listed as an Israeli citizen. I’m not sure exactly what came of this because this occurred only a couple days before I returned to the US. I’ve heard of similar things happening with other people, too.

But I can personally guarantee you that not everyone who qualifies for an Israeli citizenship is automatically conferred it. I know this because I qualify for Israeli citizenship (all that’s required is one Jewish grandparent) and I am not an Israeli. In fact, should I decide to make aliyah, I would have to prove that I have at least one Jewish grandparent. And I’ve actually been through interviews with Israeli immigration officials (to get my student visa extended) and am 100% positive that they didn’t just give me citizenship when I wasn’t looking. However, should I decide to become an Israeli citizen, and I can find proof that I have at least one Jewish grandparent, I would claim citizenship. So, IMO, you’re wrong, you can claim citizenship.

In fact, Irish citizenship works much the same way, AFAIK (ruadh can correct me if I’m wrong, but I remember reading this on an official Irish website). All one needs is a grandparent born in Ireland to become an Irish citizen. So, my mom qualifies because two of her grandparents were born in Ireland and can “claim” Irish citizenship, but I can’t.

Please go back and read Ruadh’s post carefully. There are certain situations (if your mom or dad was an Irish citizen) where you simply are an Irish citizen. You don’t have to do anything. Since you are a citizen by birth, there’s no “granting” involved.

According to Ruadh’s quote from the official government website, you are entitled to become a citizen if only your grandparents were Irish citizens.

I don’t know what the rule is in Israel, but from your story, it sounds similar. Do you see the distinction?

My OP was about the first instance. I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to understand. I’m a dual citizen of the U.S. and a EU country because my father is a citizen of that country. I didn’t have to do a damn thing, I just am considered a citizen by birth of that country according to their laws.

Kyla’s account is absolutely correct:

  • Roommate is the child of an Israeli citizen. Therefore, she is an Israeli citizen herself. This is just like the Irish case of an Irish parent.

  • Kyla is the granddaughter of a Jew. Therefore she qualifies for Israeli citizenship, should she choose to request it, and only in that case. This is similar the the “grandparent clause” in the Irish law sited by ruadh

So, in both countries, under some conditions you are a citizen - like it or not - and must actively renounce citizenship if you wish to do so. In other cases, you are entitled to citizenship, and must actively request it if you wish to do so.

So it’s some of both.

The deal with the top security cleance (and presumably others) is that those who grant them don’t want the holders to be put in a situation that could cause them to compromise information. Dual citizenship is an issue because 100% loyalty to the country granting the clearance is necessary. Whether it be potential mixed loyalties on the part of the clearance holder or potential citizenship enforcement as Hari Seldon describes, the presence of ANY chance that TS information could be compromised makes the clearance too great a risk. It’s better to not grant the clearance to the most talented mind in the world than to risk compromising some kinds of information.

It’s kinda like, would you trust your kid with a babysitter that you were 99.99% sure would not slaughter and eat your baby in the kitchen while you are away?

But Matchka, say your parents come from

country A which doesn’t recognize citizenship by ancestry,

and my parents come from

country B, which includes me among their citizenry through no fault or effort of my own.

Say we are BOTH BORN IN THE U.S., why should I GET DIFFERENT TREATMENT AND CONSIDERATION if we were both raised under the same circumstances? That’s almost…discrimination based on national origin…

Why would I be a security risk and you wouldn’t merely based on the fact that some country considers me a citizen because of my dad? It’s completely arbitrary.

There is a big difference between being granted citizenship without your knowledge or consent and acting on that citizenship.

If you are applying for TS or other clearance there should be someone there that can address this question. I would guess that a security clearance would involve checking the nationality of your parents at which point questions of nationality would come out.

You don’t have to have a halo over your head for security clearance - you just can’t be a security risk.

I’m not 100% on every country’s citizenship laws (shocking, I know), but you can probably renounce a citizenship that you no longer want. I know it’s possible to renounce American citizenship (Cecil wrote a column about it) and I assume it’s possible with other nations as well.

I don’t think you can be any surer than 99.9% about that…

Nobody has a right to hold a security clearance, whether 100% red-blooded American or otherwise. A clearance is goddamn serious business.

The question is not only loyalty, but security.

For example, one can also be denied a security clearance because of the nationality of one’s relatives. Say my family were Chinese, lived in China, and I worked in a very sensitive position in the US Government: there’s a good chance that the Chinese government, which routinely spies on the US, would try to use my family as leverage to try to get me to betray the United States.

Voila, very serious security risk. Same thing goes for dual citizens. One’s citizenship is also something that could be leveraged to induce someone to violate our laws on secrecy.

Re what Ravenman said, I once had a Chinese-American math teacher who was offered a job with the NSA after college several decades ago. He was instantly disqualified when they asked him, “Do you have any relatives in Red China?” and he mentioned his grandfather.

I had forgotten the leverage part. Rusalka I think you are too close to a situation to be objective.

If there’s any possibility that you can be:
Blackmailed because of your past history
Bribed–higher chance of that if you are in dire financial straits
Leveraged with relatives in a hostile country
Persuaded to turn coat to your other country of origin

You get the point…then sorry, no. Even if you know in YOUR heart that you are not a risk, that uncerainty will always exist for the agency that is considering you.