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Who Else Has Slipped Through the Security-Clearance Cracks?

Senators warned that there is an “alarmingly insufficient level of oversight” of OPM’s Federal Investigative Service.

by
Rodrigo Sermeño

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June 27, 2013 - 12:01 am
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WASHINGTON – Lawmakers are calling for more oversight of the vetting process allowing individuals to access classified information and criticizing the federal government’s lack of standards and lax supervision of security clearances.

In the wake of the NSA scandal in which former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden leaked numerous documents about American surveillance operations around the world, two Senate panels held a joint hearing last week to look into the role of private companies in the U.S. intelligence community.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs subcommittee, said that in light of recent events it is essential to determine whether programs carried out by the government in the name of national security “balance our security and our essential liberties.”

“It’s also incumbent upon us to raise critical questions about how our government is vetting the individuals, whether they’re federal employees or contractors who have access to our nation’s most sensitive data,” Tester said.

A January report from the director of National Intelligence showed nearly five million people hold United States security clearances. Personnel security clearances allow government and contractor staff to gain access to the nation’s most sensitive data. They are broken into confidential, secret, and top-secret classifications based on the sensitivity of the information a person is allowed to view. Roughl 1.4 million of these individuals hold a top-secret security clearance, granting them access to information that may cause exceptional damage to U.S. national security if disclosed without authorization.

The Office of Personnel Management‘s (OPM) Federal Investigative Services division conducts over 90 percent of the investigations, including all background investigations for civilians and contractors.

Conducting and managing background investigations costs the federal government over $1 billion per year, up nearly 80 percent since 2005, according to a 2012 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Most of the money goes to private companies hired by the government to conduct investigations for OPM. Private-sector contractors conduct approximately 75 percent of all investigations.

But one company in particular has acquired two-thirds of the contracts to conduct background investigative fieldwork for government agencies. About 65 percent of all background investigations on behalf of the federal government are conducted by US Investigations Services (USIS), a private company established in 1996 as a result of the privatization of the investigative branch of OPM.

According to a report by the Congressional Research Office, USIS was created as part of Vice President Al Gore’s “reinvention program,” which entailed a sizable downsizing of the civil service to make the government work with fewer staff and less funds. At OPM, the security and investigations unit of the agency was the ideal target for the program because of its reduced workload after the end of the Cold War and fewer new hires throughout the federal government at the time. After its creation in 1996, OPM awarded the company a non-competitive, multi-year contract. Others firms have won contracts to perform checks for the federal government, but none of them as lucrative as those obtained by USIS.

The OPM paid USIS more than $200 million last year for its work, said chairman of the subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). According to data compiled by Bloomberg, the company received $253 million to conduct background check investigations under a contract with the OPM in fiscal year 2012.

“We received information regarding how the government plans, conducts, oversees, and pays for background investigations. This information portrays a government agency where there is fraud, limited accountability, and no respect for taxpayer dollars,” McCaskill said.

Comments are closed.

Top Rated Comments   
What folks in America fail to see is Presidents set the standards. When Clinton lied under oath why should anyone else be penalized for doing the same.
This Security System Standard was actually started by the same Bill Clinton. When he was first elected he had quite a few members of his cabinet that could not get Security Clearances so he waved the requirements. A person that works in the White House not needing a Security Clearance is no different than giving China our computer encryption.
The same Clinton had an assistant Attorney General that forbade the FBI and CIA from comparing notes and 9/11 happened.
This same Clinton today is still the spokesman of the Democrat Party and held to the highest by most Americans.
Americans short memories are destroying us.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Who Else Has Slipped Through the Security-Clearance Cracks?'
Obama, Holder, Brennan, Huma, Jarett, Muslim Brotherhood 1, 2, 3, .....
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know, IF our gov't actually screened out liberals, democrats & muslims from working w/ sensitive information, we wouldn't have problems like wikileaks & the most recent one. Sure, the gov't will use this info to control us, but if they truly want to keep secrets, they need NOT to hire any of the above. It is just common sense.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (11)
All Comments   (11)
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There are really two separate issues involved in this breach. The first is the quality of the background investigation. I have a fair sense of what *used* to be involved, as I was once considered for a job in one of our intelligence agencies, and I have a copy of the file. Given how quickly Snowden got clearance, they couldn't have done a good job.

But the second issue is internal to the NSA. What moron, for example, allows PCs with USB ports that make it so easy to walk out with sensitive data? It's not hard to disable them. And what ever happened to the concept of multi-level security or even compartmentalization?
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Most likely Snowden would have passed a tougher screening and gotten his clearance anyway. Some people just get sick of working with unconstitutional behavior of government agencies and violate their oath on general principls.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've got a better idea. CLOSE DOWN the NSA, and most of the CIA and FBI's snooping operations. RESTORE the Article of Ammendment that prohibits acquiring information except by the authority of a warrant.. signed by a judge.... upon oath or affirmation... stating facts to support a probable cause basis....... and naming the item to be searched for, and the place where it is to be found. STOP this insanity of universal worldwide datagathering..... THAT is the root problem, and if it took Snowden to expose that to the public eye, then he deserves a medal for bravery. His life is almost certainly forfeit.... because he did the right thing. We do not NEED this insane datecollection debacle. Once that is gone, the "need" for so many "security clearance" operatives, government and private sector, will evaporate. Let these clowns go get productive jobs instead of their heavy sucking on the public teat.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, vetting is indeed intrinsic, yet let's face facts: deep within Washington's underbelly lies more dangers than the whistle blower, Snowden. Say what? Well, Obama Inc is mobbed up with Muslim Brotherhood operatives, the same subset of terrorists who pose the gravest threat to domestic security! Never mind the fact that they ban any infiltration/spying into mosques etc, there are Muslim "sensitivities" to consider.
Regardless, Washington should clean house first - http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/10/26/the-white-houses-revolving-door-for-muslim-radicals-courtesy-of-the-islamist-in-chief-addendum-to-the-muslim-mafia-their-overarching-plan-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
What folks in America fail to see is Presidents set the standards. When Clinton lied under oath why should anyone else be penalized for doing the same.
This Security System Standard was actually started by the same Bill Clinton. When he was first elected he had quite a few members of his cabinet that could not get Security Clearances so he waved the requirements. A person that works in the White House not needing a Security Clearance is no different than giving China our computer encryption.
The same Clinton had an assistant Attorney General that forbade the FBI and CIA from comparing notes and 9/11 happened.
This same Clinton today is still the spokesman of the Democrat Party and held to the highest by most Americans.
Americans short memories are destroying us.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Roger that. I was working in the Intel community at the time and held a Secret. It took over 6 months to get my Top Secret/SI. As I recall the Defense Investigative Service did the background checks. At the time if you used any illegal drugs that pretty much nullified any chance of getting a TS/SI - hence the difficulties with the Clintong gang.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well said, thanks.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Who Else Has Slipped Through the Security-Clearance Cracks?'
Obama, Holder, Brennan, Huma, Jarett, Muslim Brotherhood 1, 2, 3, .....
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
All of those you named were chosen by Obama, who was chosen by the Democrats. The Democrats don't bother with screening anyone.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
You know, IF our gov't actually screened out liberals, democrats & muslims from working w/ sensitive information, we wouldn't have problems like wikileaks & the most recent one. Sure, the gov't will use this info to control us, but if they truly want to keep secrets, they need NOT to hire any of the above. It is just common sense.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
how about just stopping the massive unwarranted data gathering? THAT would solve the problem.. no data centers, no leaks. Simple soluction. AND, no more tax money down the rathole to fund the collection.. or the snooping... or leaking.
42 weeks ago
42 weeks ago Link To Comment
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