Contact with Foreign Relatives

Contact with foreign relatives, or other persons in foreign countries to whom you have ties of affection, influence, or obligation, can be a security concern -- especially if those persons are in a country known to conduct intelligence operations against the United States. The greater your value as an intelligence target, the more likely these persons will be exploited to gain information about you. The more vulnerable they are to coercion, exploitation, or pressure (for example, they work for the government or are dependent upon the government in any other way), the more likely they are to be used for this purpose.

The likelihood that a foreign security or intelligence service will develop interest in you may be increased by actions you take that draw the service’s attention to your ties of affection for or obligation to one of its citizens. This includes regular mail or telephone contact, sending packages or money or medicine, or visiting a foreign relative or associate. The more frequent and extensive the contact, or the stronger the apparent ties of affection or obligation, the greater the chances that the contact will come to the attention of and be exploited by the foreign security or intelligence service.

If the foreign security or intelligence service identifies you as a target, they may seek to assess your vulnerabilities and gradually draw you into a web of compromising circumstances. Indications that such a process may be underway include:

  • Suspected delay or tampering with mail to or from foreign correspondents.
  • Suspected monitoring of telephone calls to or from foreign relatives or associates.
  • Discreet or official inquiries to the foreign relative or associate about you.
  • Any unusual contact with police or security authorities during foreign travel, especially foreign officials contacting you under any pretext while you are visiting with relatives in the foreign country.
  • The foreign relative or associate advising you of any type of difficulty with local authorities, or asking for money or medicine under circumstances that seem the least bit unusual.

bullet  If a foreign intelligence or security service can manipulate you into sending or transporting money, medicine, or goods to a foreign relative, this confirms your sense of obligation to help the relative. If you send or transport the money, medicine, or goods through illegal channels, the relative is subject to arrest and, therefore, vulnerable to duress. If you can be made to believe the relative’s problems with the authorities are your fault, this creates an even greater sense of obligation. If you send money, medicine, or gifts through illegal channels, the security service also has a basis for detaining and questioning you during your visit to that country. If you fail to report such developments to U.S. security authorities, you take the first step on a path toward concealing a relationship with a foreign intelligence or security service.

Related Topics: Avoiding/Recognizing Foreign Intelligence Interest, and How Do I Know When I'm Being Targeted and Assessed?




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