[Please see below for a November 23 update to this post.]
Or at least that is the informed opinion of Greg Rinckey now making its way around the web.
Greg’s ideas add an additional dimension to the emergent discoveries of the pros and cons of social networking: the communication process that refuses to be controlled. (See Jesse’s post from Monday.)
The November 2, 2009 article, available for view here, apparently first appeared on federaltimes.com. The article describes Greg as “a former military and federal attorney, …[now] managing partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC, a law firm with offices in Albany, N.Y., and Washington.”
Here’s a lightly edited version of the original article:
Commentary: Social sites risk security clearance
November 02, 2009
If you hold a security clearance or if you ever want to apply for one, be mindful of your postings and contacts online, particularly on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. These sites pose risks to gaining and keeping a security clearance.
Question 14 of the National Agency Questionnaire (SF-86) asks for names of your relatives and associates. The term “associate” is defined as any foreign national that you or your spouse “are bound by affection, obligation, or close and continuing contact.” Continuing contact with a foreign national used to include a clear exchange between both parties — visits outside the country, mail, phone calls or e-mails. Social networking sites bring a gray area into the definition of an associate and continuing contact. Your list of friends on Facebook may include foreign nationals, or you could have foreign followers on your Twitter page.
Is giving a foreign national access to your social networking page as a “friend” considered close and continuing contact even if you never directly message them? Is having access to your updated information enough for a person to be considered an associate? Unfortunately, this uncharted territory can ensnare a potential or current clearance holder.
Foreign intelligence agencies use social networking sites. They have been known to befriend Facebook users who automatically accept their “friend” requests. I had a client who lost her security clearance after using an online chat room. She was seeking advice on how to beat a computer game while attending a gaming convention. The “gaming” experts she chatted with online were foreign intelligence agents working out of China.
You may want to eliminate any foreign nationals from your social networking sites to eliminate any potential security concerns.
A clearance holder also needs to be responsible for what he or she posts online. These sites are considered “open source intelligence,” and mining information from them is simple. Anyone can do a Web search and bring up postings from Twitter and Facebook.
Technology companies are developing more sophisticated ways to monitor social networking sites, offering the ability to scan millions of online social conversations at once. Intelligence agencies around the world are taking advantage of this technology to gain valuable information.
Social networking sites are creating new territory for many workplaces. Just this month a Staten Island, N.Y., judge had to be transferred to a new location because of his Facebook use. The judge reportedly used the site to update his whereabouts and post pictures of his courtroom.
The Pentagon also is weighing if troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan should continue to have social networking access.
The article ends with some advice about what to do if you find yourself in a situation where the desire to be social may conflict with the responsibility to be secretive — i.e., contact an attorney.
Thanks to Susan Reinertson, former FEMA Region 10 Administrator, and former Homeland Security Advisor and Emergency Management Director for North Dakota for alerting me to this article. I now understand why she refuses to accept my Facebook friend requests. Or at least I think that’s the reason.
In case you missed the comment from William Henderson:
November 22, 2009 @ 10:17 pm
Mr. Rinckey’s 2 November was retracted at the Federal Times because it was erroneously based on an obsolete version of the SF86. The wording of the “Foreign Contacts” question on the July 2008 (latest version) of the SF86 changed enough from the question on the September 1995 version of the SF86 to severely undermine the premise of his article.
The new question reads,“Do you have or have you had close and/or continuing contact with foreign nationals within the last 7 years with whom you, your spouse, or your cohabitant are bound by affection, influence, and/or obligation?”