National Security at Risk After Multiple Falsified MAVNI Troop Records Found
WASHINGTON, DC – July 18, 2018
In a court filing released Tuesday, the DoD stated that significant risks of insider threats have created the need for increased vetting of foreign-born recruits seeking citizenship through military service.
The U.S. District Court Western District of Washington will process the lawsuit, which was filed on behalf of 17 foreign-born military recruits who enlisted through the Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest program (MAVNI) but have not been able to clear additional security requirements the military put in place in 2016 and 2017.
Government attorneys called the recruitment program an "elevated security risk", after a case involving 17 foreign-born military recruits who enlisted through the program but were not able to clear additional security requirements. Some recruits had falsified their background records and were connected to state-sponsored intelligence agencies, the court filing said.
Eligible recruits are required to have legal status in the U.S., such as a student visa, before enlisting. More than 5,000 immigrants were recruited into the program in 2016, and an estimated 10,000 are currently serving. Nearly 110,000 members of the Armed Forces have gained citizenship by serving in the U.S. military since Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Defense Department, Military Times said.
According to the Tiwari v. Mattis lawsuit, the action challenges unconstitutional national origin discrimination imposed by Department of Defense (DoD) guidance memoranda that summarily denies Plaintiffs — who are all naturalized U.S. citizens — the ability to apply for security clearances until after the term of their initial military enlistment, thereby crippling their military careers and preventing them from using their talents for the benefit of the national defense. Naturalized citizens who had been recruited through the MAVNI program have, since 2009, received all levels of security clearances, including Top Secret clearances, and have gone on to successful careers as linguists, intelligence officers, doctors, military police officers, and other careers requiring a security clearance. The September 30, 2016 DoD memo had an immediate and negative impact on naturalized U.S. citizens who had enlisted in the U.S. Armed Services through the MAVNI Program.
U.S. citizens who had entered the Army through the MAVNI Program were told that they were no longer eligible for any form of security clearance and therefore could no longer progress in their jobs, become officers, sign ROTC contracts, attend OCS, or reclassify into other jobs in the military — such as military linguist — that require a security clearance. The bar to obtaining security clearance also applied to their civilian jobs, for example, if they were Reservists who sought work with defense contractors or Federal agencies. MAVNI naturalized U.S. citizens are now being treated differently from other U.S. citizens who serve in the military. Other U.S. citizens serving in the military — who have undergone far less background screening than MAVNI recruits — are not barred from obtaining security clearances during their first term of service. Natural-born U.S. citizens can immediately apply for a security clearance when they enlist, even if they have not undergone any of the background checks required of MAVNIs.
In a statement filed by Roger Smith, branch chief for personnel security policy at the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the DoD argued that regular reviews of the program found security holes, including that some applicants could not be vetted because the U.S. lacked “access and the ability to conduct standard security screening and interviews with associates, friends, and family members, as many MAVNI soldiers are from nations who remain hostile to the United States or do not have data-sharing agreements with the United States.”
In his statement, Smith said that through a 2016 review, the DoD found that “(1) a number of individuals accessed into the military based on receiving fraudulent visas to attend universities that did not exist; (2) some MAVNI recruits attended, and later falsified transcripts from, universities owned by a Foreign National Security Agency and a State Sponsored Intelligence Organization (notably, most of the university classmates of one MAVNI recruit later worked for the same State Sponsored Intelligence Organization); and (3) one MAVNI recruit who entered the United States on a student visa professed support for 9/11 terrorists and said he would voluntarily help China in a crisis situation.”
Since 2013, more than 20 recruits to the MAVNI program had become the subjects of counterintelligence or criminal investigations by the Defense Department or FBI, according to the court filing.
However, as Smith pointed out, there have been dozens of criminal and terrorism and espionage cases involving U.S. citizens who have enlisted in the military. Examples include the ongoing case of Nidal Malik Hasan, a native-born American citizen and Army officer who held a security clearance and murdered 13 people — including three former immigrants who had naturalized as U.S. citizens through military service — at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5, 2009; Aaron Alexis, a native-born American who served in the U.S. Navy, received security clearance despite a history of bad behavior, and who, after being discharged from active duty, killed twelve people in the Navy Yard in Washington on September 16, 2013; there are other high profile cases as well, including Chelsea Manning.