On at least 350 instances, private contractors and agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) conducted “faulty background investigations” that may have led to security clearances being awarded to people who should not have received them.
These revelations come after NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis received top-level security clearances. Special agents for OPM had 11 convictions and employees of USIS, the company that vetted Snowden and Alexis, had seven convictions. CACI International Inc. also have also had employees “convicted of making false statements in reports for security clearance background checks.”
Reuters reviewed “court documents and press releases from prosecutors for 21 cases resulting in convictions that involved the making of false statements from December 2004 to March 2012.”
The outlet found “the 350 falsified reports represent only a small percentage of the number of background investigations conducted each year, either by OPM’s own investigators or a handful of private contractors it uses for most of the work.”
Some of the examples Reuters found included a private contract investigator having reported that he interviewed a person who had died more than a decade earlier and others making false statements to receive “top secret” security clearances.
OPM “contracts out for most of the background check work. But the decision to grant security clearances rests with the government agency that intends to employ the individual.” A “secret” security clearance lasts about ten years and USIS, which the OPM’s Inspector General is investigating, reportedly conducts “about 65 percent of the background checks done by private contractors.” OPM has received over “$1 billion to conduct more than 2 million background investigations for government employees in fiscal 2011.”
According to Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-MO) office, “in 2012, there were 3.5 million federal employees and 1.1 million contractors who held a ‘secret’ or ‘top secret’ clearance.” The OPM’s inspector general’s office has also “told Reuters it has 68 open cases related to OPM’s background investigations program,” but would reveal how many of those investigations “involve report falsifications.”