Criminal Probe Into Firm That Vetted Snowden

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Friday, 21 Jun 2013 10:21 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The government contracting firm that conducted Edward Snowden's background investigation is under criminal investigation by the Office of Personnel Management, an inspector general for the agency revealed during a Senate hearing.

Patrick McFarland told lawmakers there may have been problems with how Virginia-based USIS, formally known as U.S. Investigations Services, vetted Snowden's background, The Washington Post reports.

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill observed during that the investigation of USIS was being conducted to determine whether there was a "systemic failure to adequately conduct investigations under its contract" with the federal government, the Post reported.

"We are limited in what we can say about this investigation because it is an ongoing criminal matter," McCaskill said. "But it is a reminder that background investigations can have real consequences for our national security."

USIS, the largest commercial provider of background checks for the federal government, issued a statement Thursday claiming that it "has never been informed that it is under criminal investigation.”

However, the company said it did receive a subpoena from the inspector general at the Office of Personnel Management in January 2012 and provided its full cooperation in that instance, which the statement described as a government "civil investigative" matter.

According to its website, USIS has 100 contracts to provide services for at least 95 federal agencies, including the departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and Defense, along with about a dozen intelligence agencies, including NSA and the National Reconnaissance Office.

Snowden had been working for another government contractor, Booz Allen Hamilton, before he disclosed details of the National Security Agency's collection of phone and email records to The Washington Post and The Guardian of London.

The case has brought the government's use of contractors for sensitive tasks under heavy scrutiny. According to The Post, more than one-third of the 4.2 million government and contract workers with security clearances have top-secret access.


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