22 November 2013, 18:53

US Congress finds shortcuts in handing out security clearances for Navy Yard shooter

The federal agency charged with screening employees for security clearance offered hints about how to cut corners could have led to the clearance the Navy Yard shooter needed to access the base, the House’s top investigator said.

Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said his staffers have come across verbal and written policies from the Office of Personnel Management that indicate the security clearance process was short-circuited in the case of Aaron Alexis, the Navy Yard shooter.

But Mr. Issa says OPM is refusing to turn over those documents and allowing them to be viewed only behind closed doors. If he doesn’t have the documents by noon Thursday, he said, he will issue a subpoena.

Mr. Issa said he thinks the agency is trying to protect itself from embarrassment from questions about the clearance process for Alexis and for Edward Snowden, the former contractor whose leaks have exposed some of the government’s most secret spy programs.

"These policies include the failure to secure arrest records that would have alerted federal officials to his violent past," Mr. Issa wrote in a letter, obtained by The Washington Times, which was sent Wednesday to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta. "Perhaps most disconcerting, though, is OPM’s indifference to obtaining all the relevant information about individuals under review for a security clearance."

Mr. Issa said his investigators also have seen an OPM training presentation that offered tips on “how to complete a thirty day caseload in less than thirty days.”

That same document also told those conducting the security review that when looking for criminal records, local law enforcement officers "either got ‘em, or they don’t." Mr. Issa said that "cavalier" guidance made it seem like it was acceptable not to fully pursue those records.

Company behind Snowden, DC shooter vetting proves unreliable

Both NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, former Navy reservist suspected of killing 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard, got “secret ”security clearance by a company which apparently didn’t let its employers to do their work right.

No evidence has emerged that USIS cut corners when it vetted Snowden and Alexis. But the company, which has grown to become the leading outside provider of background investigations to the federal government, has drawn the notice of lawmakers and the Justice Department.

It is under criminal investigation over whether it misled officials about the thoroughness of its work. A number of former USIS employees have been charged with falsifying records in recent years.

Also apparently USIS stressed out and work overloaded its own contractors. The firm has been sued by employees in California who claim it enforces unrealistic timelines for security clearance investigations, according to court documents.

In two class-action lawsuits filed in California, former USIS employees claim they weren't given enough time to adequately perform their investigations, leading them to work off the clock or through unpaid breaks.

Former employees say the relentless demand to churn out background checks meant that even when USIS investigators wanted to do their best to follow up on red flags, there was limited time.

The clearance process itself raises questions. Secret-level clearance — the kind issued to Alexis - required only information from a self-reported questionnaire, a credit check and data from local law enforcement. No interviews with the subject or with references are required.

But even for top-secret clearance, where such interviews are required, some former employees said they felt rushed.

“It’s very: ‘Here’s a sheet of questions, ask the questions, hurry and get the answers, submit them and move forward,’ ” said one of the former employees.

Also candidates do not have to disclose mental-health counseling they have received related to marital issues, grief or coming back from combat.

Not only USIS kept on rushing its employees but also didn’t provide enough supervision.

“I could go weeks and weeks and not see a single co-worker, so there’s no way they can see what you’re doing,” said one former investigator while his colleagues added that no one went to check their homes to make sure the documents containing personal information were secure.

It doesn’t seem strange now that Aaron Alexis who allegedly had some mental issues got a secret-level clearance. The question is how many other people who got “secret” security clearance by USIS are dangerous to society?

According to Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from Missouri, 75 percent of all of the government's background investigations are conducted by contractors and of those, USIS conducts 65 percent of them. And last year Last year, The Office of Personnel Management processed nearly 2.3 million investigations.

Seems US government is trying to catch traitors while undermining its own national security.

Voice of Russia, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, The Washington Times

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