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Legal Insider: Social Media Reviews Required for Security Clearance Holders

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This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Reston Town Center that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement, and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry

Under new legislation passed by Congress, federal agencies will begin focusing on social media information as part of the security clearance review process. The new provisions were placed in a 2016 Omnibus appropriations bill (see Chapter 110–Enhanced Personnel Security Programs) by Congress that became law on December 18, 2015. Essentially, the new law establishes a more intensive personnel security clearance program for federal agencies.

One of the central pieces of the new legislation requires the consideration of social media as part of the security clearance process. The legislation does not specify how federal agencies should use, gather, and/or evaluate social media data that they review from clearance holders. Those rules will be forthcoming in the future.

The law also requires that federal agencies establish plans for investigation of existing security clearance holders at least twice within a 5-year period. Not many details were provided by Congress in the legislation regarding these additional checks, but it is expected that federal agencies will conduct automated or random checks of a clearance holder within this timeframe. The rules will likely be set for this process in the coming months by the Director of National Intelligence. The goal of the new legislation seems to be in moving to a more continuing process of evaluating eligibility for security clearances.

The new legislation also requires that agencies seek more information regarding clearance holders, including from other public sources such as commercial and consumer reporting databases. These new sources can include, but not be limited to, criminal, credit, and/or financial watch lists and civil legal records. The new law requires implementation of these changes to the security clearance process within the next five years.

We represent employees in security clearance matters. If you need assistance with a security clearance issue, please contact our office at (703) 668-0070 or at www.berrylegal.com to schedule a consultation. Please also visit and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/BerryBerryPllc.

The views and opinions expressed in this sponsored column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

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