The incoming director of national intelligence, retired Navy Vice Adm. John M. McConnell, plans to change security rules to make it easier for intelligence agencies to hire first-generation Arab Americans for highly sensitive jobs.

These rules, dating from World War II, limit intelligence agencies’ ability to employ first-generation Americans “who might have native language capabilities from serving in some of these very sensitive positions in the intelligence community” and hinder efforts to deal with radical Islam, McConnell said during his confirmation hearing Friday before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

The rules McConnell described are in a directive from the director of central intelligence, or DCI. They require citizenship verification for access to the most highly classified data, known as sensitive compartmented information. For the foreign-born, there must be verification of U.S. citizenship and legal status in this country of immediate family members, including “spouse, cohabitant, father, mother, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters,” the directive states.

Another element that must be considered when hiring is “foreign influence,” according to adjudication guidelines that the White House adopted in December 2005. One section of the guidelines refers to “contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend, or other person who is a citizen of or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, manipulation, pressure, or coercion.”

An intelligence agency chief can waive these criteria, but McConnell said he wants to change them because they constitute “one of the areas that needs probably the greatest deal of attention and improvement . . . using people who speak the native language, understand the culture and the tribal conditions.”


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