FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ODNI News Release No. 10-16 May 13, 2016
DNI Clapper Signs New Policy on Social Media for Federal Background
Investigations for Security Clearances
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper yesterday signed Security Executive
Agent Directive Five, codifying federal background investigative authority to
incorporate publicly-available social-media information in the security clearance
The new policy comes into effect after a long, deliberative process recognizing the
ubiquity of social media and the importance of maintaining privacy and civil liberties.
The policy does not require security investigations consider social media
information. Instead, it permits the collection of publicly-available social-media
information if an agency head determines it is an appropriate investigative tool.
“Social media has become an integral—and very public—part of the fabric of most
American’s daily lives,” said Bill Evanina, Director of ODNI’s National
Counterintelligence and Security Center. “We cannot afford to ignore this important
open source in our effort to safeguard our secrets—and our nation’s security.”
This policy places important restrictions that limit the federal government’s reach
into the private lives of clearance applicants and holders. Absent a national security
concern, or criminal reporting requirement, information pertaining to individuals other
than the individual being investigated—even information collected inadvertently—will
not be pursued. In addition, investigators may not request—or require—individuals
to provide social media passwords, log into a private account or take any action that
would disclose non-publicly available social media information.
Security clearance holders undergo intense scrutiny before obtaining and while
maintaining—a clearance. This includes reporting interactions with foreign
nationals, obtaining permission to travel abroad, and undergoing extensive
background investigations and re-investigations.
This is as it should be, Evanina said. These requirements, along with considering
an applicant’s public social media presence, “are a small price to pay to protect our
nation’s secrets and ensure the trust the American people have placed in us.”