Clearance Holders: Avoid Foreign Recruiting

Professionals watching computer screens.

It is important for Americans who have contact with foreign nationals to understand the process that all intelligence services use to spot, assess and recruit agents. The Road to Recruitment describes the systematic, step-by-step process that intelligence operatives use to winnow down a large number of contacts until they eventually find the one or two exceptions who may be susceptible to recruitment. Anyone who during the course of their job has regular contact with foreign nationals should read the Road to Recruitment.

Who Is Most Likely to Be Targeted discusses several factors that increase the possibility that you, or any other person, will be targeted and assessed.

Related: Search for Security Clearance jobs.

These include:

  • Your access to information, people, or places of active intelligence interest.
  • Travel abroad where foreign intelligence operatives can gain access to you on their home turf.
  • Work in a position or geographic location in the U.S. where it is easy for foreign nationals to gain access to you.
  • Ethnic, racial, or religious background that may attract the attention of a foreign intelligence operative.

It is important to note that all the above factors that increase the chances of a person being selected for initial targeting and assessment are circumstances over which the individual has little or no control. Therefore, the fact that a person is targeted and assessed should never, by itself, be interpreted as casting doubt on the integrity or loyalty of that person. 

Most foreign contacts are perfectly legitimate and well-meaning. Your ability to recognize the few who are not will help you avoid problems. It will also help your security office help others avoid problems. Your assistance in identifying foreign intelligence collectors who may be cultivating you for ulterior purposes will make it possible to warn others and neutralize the foreign intelligence activity.

During the Cold War, most Americans who betrayed their country by spying for foreign intelligence services were not targeted, assessed and recruited on the initiative of the foreign service. They were volunteer spies – Americans who took the initiative in contacting and passing secret information to a foreign country. The strong preponderance of volunteers over recruits may have been due, in part, to the Cold War barriers that limited opportunities for Communist intelligence officers to take the initiative in contacting, assessing and cultivating American targets.

In today's global economy, the environment for espionage operations is totally different. Foreign intelligence collectors are pursuing a broader range of targets, and it is relatively easy for them to establish contact with and assess Americans who have access to valuable classified, controlled or proprietary information.

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