Background Check of National Security Agency Leaker Found to be Inadequate

A federal review of the most recent background check conducted on former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has found that the security clearance investigation of Snowden – who later leaked classified government documents about secret surveillance programs – was inadequate, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports. The article from the WSJ is available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324906304579039381125706104.html.

According to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, National Counterintelligence Executive Frank Montoya Jr., who led the review, said the 2011 background check by a private contractor “did not present a comprehensive picture of Mr. Snowden.” The review also found the background check failed to verify Snowden’s account of a past security violation or his work for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and did not thoroughly probe an apparent unreported trip to India.

The review of the background check that was presented in a letter to the Inspector general for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) also found “several areas of incomplete coverage” of Snowden’s record and personal history, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the review, the background check did not gain significant information from anyone who knew Snowden beyond his mother and girlfriend.

The Wall Street Journal reports the review concluded that the security check run on Snowden “did not meet the requirements” of a 1997 document outlining federal guidelines for background checks. After the background check renewed Snowden’s high-level security clearance, he then had access through his job to top secret documents about secret U.S. surveillance programs that he later leaked to journalists.

The private contractor responsible for the 2011 security clearance review of Snowden, US Investigations Services (USIS), is described by The Wall Street Journal as “the largest security background check firm working for the U.S. government.” A federal grand jury is currently investigating if USIS conducted inadequate background checks by allegedly rushing cases without proper review, The Wall Street Journal reports.

UPDATE (8/30/13): The Wall Street Journal reports that USIS indicated it was the federal government’s responsibility to catch any problems with the company’s investigation of Snowden and that the NSA, not USIS, “was ultimately responsible for approving or denying Mr. Snowden’s security clearance.” USIS also said a Wall Street Journal article published on August 27, 2013 painted “an inaccurate view” of the company’s role in the Snowden case. The follow up WSJ article is available at http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324324404579041350132655752.html.

Sources:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324906304579039381125706104.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324324404579041350132655752.html

Related ESR News Blog: Company Responsible for Screening Edward Snowden Investigated for Alleged Inadequate Background Checks

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