I work for a small engineering company near DC that supplies highly-cleared people for work in the various alphabet intelligence agencies. I thought it was very interesting that in my own project space (for an intelligence community customer) I saw four first-generation immigrants, none of whom could speak English well, come and go from my project in just the past year. Several of them had not been born in the United States, yet somehow they were recently able to obtain very high polygraph-level clearances.
I think the risk in this kind of clearance policy is quite obvious: for today's immigrants, their “home” country is at most a day's plane travel away even if they live on the other side of the world (East Asia is where most of them seem to originate). A lot of them come from countries whose governments are oppressive and are often Muslim.
It's my impression that they seem to come here not because of any interest in the founding principles of this country, but rather that their standard of living (including free government “bennies”) and economic opportunities are better while they're here than what they can expect in their country of origin. I've heard several talk about returning to their countries of origin after they've accumulated enough money to allow themselves to live much better “back home”. Common sense would seem to dictate that the fact that these immigrants need to show no loyalty to or personal investment in this country should shape the policies regarding who can receive government clearances (at all levels).
Apparently the government, like commercial industry, is more interested in having a race to the bottom in terms of what they pay for technical contractor help then they are to ensure that the workforce has the best interests of the country's security and longevity in mind.
At this point I have to say that I really don't feel at all sympathetic to the government when they find that one or more of these newly-cleared immigrants either took very sensitive information back with them to their countries of origin or tried to sell it to foreign powers, as has happened twice this year:
Navy engineer indicted for trying to sell secretsThese are just two incidents this year, and it only takes one breach to neuter a multi-year, multi-billion dollar government defense or intelligence program. For every one of these individuals that are caught, I would wager that there are several who are not.
Christopher P. Cavas, Navy Times, EST December 5, 2014
WASHINGTON – A naturalized American citizen working for the Navy was arrested Friday for attempting to sell technical information about the nuclear aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford to an agent of the Egyptian government.
The agent, however, was a federal undercover agent working for the FBI.
According to documents from the Justice Department, a federal grand jury on Dec. 3 indicted Mostafa Ahmed Awwad, 35, and charged him with two counts of attempting to export defense articles and technical data.[More]
StrategyPage, January 22, 2014
On January 9th an Iranian born man (Mozaffar Khazaee) who was an engineer and an American citizen, was arrested after he was caught trying to ship tech manuals for the F-35 back to Iran. The F-35 material was hidden among household goods being shipped from the U.S. to Iran. Khazaee was arrested as he tried to board a flight from the U.S. to Iran (via Germany) and was charged with espionage. Khazaee was 59 and had worked for several American defense contractors.
Iran often attempts to use Iranians living in overseas (especially in the United States) for smuggling and espionage, particularly if they have access to material Iran wants.[More]
Unfortunately there seems to be too much money to be made by government contracting companies (and their lobbyists in Congress) who want to leverage cheap immigrant labor for the government to realize that their contractor workforce would very likely be more trustworthy if clearances at all levels were restricted to those individuals who have made the personal investment and commitment to have lived in the country for several generations.
James Fulford: Aside from the suicidal carelessness of the intelligence agencies hiring foreigners from hostile foreign countries, it's astonishing to see the contortions they go through to avoid using the word "immigrant" to describe these people/
By the way, if you believe as I do that the polygraph tests used to vet people getting security clearances are junk science anyway, how much more unreliable must they be when used by American examiners on people whose native language is Arabic, Farsi, or Mandarin.