Sen. Coburn: Contractor's Security Clearance System 'Broken'

Friday, 01 Nov 2013 11:34 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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Senators have blasted the government’s security-clearance system — which green-lighted Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden — calling it a failure that has endangered national security.

"Our process is obviously broken," said Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, a member of the Homeland Security Committee. Coburn wants the government to reconsider allowing private companies to conduct background checks on millions of civilians given access to classified information, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Coburn said the country needs to clear fewer people, McClatchy reported. "And then we need to create the expectation that you are going to be randomly checked to see if, in fact, you still deserve to have that clearance,"

Lawmakers met after the Justice Department announced it would join a lawsuit filed by a former manager with contractor US Investigations Services, which conducts background checks for the Office of Personnel Management and the Director of National Intelligence.

The employee, Blake Percival, accuses the company of ordering him to use a proprietary computer program to expedite the review process, resulting in incomplete background checks being sent to the Office of Personnel Management. The process — known as "dumping" — helped USIS maximize its profits, according to the Department of Justice.

Acting OPM Director Elaine Kaplan told senators that USIS has made changes since the lawsuit was filed in 2011 "and that has given us some level of comfort and confidence that we can rely on these products."

USIS conducted the background checks on both Alexis and Snowden. The Virginia-based company has acknowledged changes such as "enhanced oversight and improved protocols."

Despite the government’s failure to pick up on warning signs of Alexis’ mental instability prior to his Sept. 16 shooting rampage at the Naval Sea Systems Command inside the Washington Navy Yard, USIS did a thorough review of Alexis in 2007, Kaplan added.

Alexis killed 12 people and injured three others before being killed by police.

Kaplan’s defense of her agency drew fire from Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

"The notion that you’re calling what you’re doing quality control, Ms. Kaplan, is probably, I think, offensive," McCaskill said.

A bipartisan measure is calling for the government to carry out random checks to see whether officials are being informed of personal problems that might impact someone’s security clearance.

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