The background investigation for defense contractor Edward Snowden was inefficient in several areas, according to a recent review. National Counterintelligence Executive Frank Montoya Jr. led the review of Snowden’s 2011 investigation. He found too few people were interviewed and issues that were presented weren’t pursued, according to documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal.
Among the issues are an unreported trip to India as well as failure to investigate a security violation Snowden was a part of at the CIA. The investigation also failed to interview individuals beyond his mother and girlfriend.
Montoya, an official at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, noted that while the investigation missed red flags and painted an ‘incomplete picture’ of the National Security Agency contractor, the issues wouldn’t have necessarily precluded his ability to maintain his top secret security clearance.
Background checks are at the center of recently proposed security clearance reforms. Senators are urging more scrutiny and better accountability for private background investigation firms. US Investigation Services, LLC is currently under a federal grand jury investigation.
The key issue in the Snowden investigation is the lack of almost any references or interviews beyond Snowden himself, his mother, and his girlfriend. Without contacting other individuals or taking the time to verify employment history, the investigation failed to paint a full picture of Snowden, and seemed to make no effort to validate his own claims.
Further digging into the clearance process may find that beyond a broken investigation process is an adjudication process that allows an individual to skate through a periodic reinvestigation with limited references and a lack of information. In an ideal process a facility security officer would have reviewed Snowden’s information and ensured gaps in information were filled, before allowing the investigation to be processed.