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It should be no surprise that most clearance holders have active social media accounts on one or more of the many available platforms. Censorship has rapidly increased over the past year, which has led to technological improvements in systems used to track information and activity on those platforms. While the security clearance world builds out the Continuous Evaluation program, it would not be surprising to see an increased focus on social media and internet activity in the very near future.
Guideline A of the Adjudicative Guidelines for Determining Eligibility for Access to Classified Information deals with “Allegiance to the United States”. In reviewing potential violations of this guideline, the government looks for indicators that a person has associated themselves with or is a sympathizer for persons or organizations who advocate, threaten, or use force for a number of different nefarious activities counter to Federal, state, or local governments. Here are a few social media activities that might cost you your clearance:
1. Actively advocating for violence against the government or any government official
You must not advocate for or threaten violence against the government or any government official. This might appear to be simple advice, but many people regularly threaten to “fight” for what they believe in or might urge others that “now is the time to…” You might have made comments that have been repeated throughout history since the time of our founding fathers to modern day, such as “The second amendment is there to protect all of the other amendments”. You might be correct, but an investigator or adjudicator might perceive that language to mean that you intend to take up arms against the government, which might result in having to litigate to obtain or maintain your security clearance. Choose your words and actions wisely.
2. Liking, sharing, or joining pages or groups that might be considered to be anti-government or extremist groups
This applies to everything from Antifa to the Three Percenters. Yes, you read that correctly. While nearly everybody can agree that organizations such as Nazis, Al-Qaeda, Antifa, KKK, and the Black Panthers Party are obviously extremist groups, other organizations such as the Three Percenters and Black Lives Matter might also be viewed as anti-government or extremist groups. BLM has received its fair share of bad press during riots that have engulfed large cities across the country in recent years. The Three Percenters are, from inception, known for being the three percent of the U.S. population that claims to be willing to stand up against tyranny. Naturally, this group draws many military members and veterans into their ranks for this reason. Who better to stand up to tyranny? Well, claiming to be a Three Percenter and accusing the current administration of being tyrannical might land you in the crosshairs of a young investigator trying to make a name for himself. You should avoid joining these groups and liking these pages if you hope to maintain an active clearance.
3. Liking, sharing, or even failing to delete negative social media content from your platforms
The act of liking or sharing extremist language or calls to action might be enough to catch the attention of an investigator. Unfortunately, failing to delete negative comments or content that was shared to your page might also be enough to jeopardize your clearance. The clearance adjudication process is extraordinarily discretionary, and somebody might perceive your failure to delete such information to be complicity or a conscious decision to promote such content. As much as you might hate to have to censor friends and family, you would really hate having to file for unemployment if you lost your job due to an inability to maintain a clearance.
Having a private account or joining private pages will offer little to no protections. Investigators will have tools and resources available to them to ensure that they are obtaining the information necessary for matters of national security.
Enjoy social media, but choose your words and actions wisely.