The security clearance process is suffering from ‘glaring mistakes,’ according to congressional testimony on the security clearance process. In a hearing of the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee, leaders discussed the findings of a new 44-page report outlining the flaws in the security clearance process in the wake of the D.C. Navy Yard Shooting.
The report noted three critical areas of concern:
Non-cooperation of local police departments –
‘Federal law requires local law enforcement agencies to provide criminal history information to federal security clearance investigators. But Federal law is vague on exactly what must be shared and many local law enforcement agencies frequently shun federal security clearance investigators, by providing only limited, if any, information,’ noted the report. Many major cities including Baltimore and Washington, D.C. are included on OPM’s list of non-cooperating police departments. This non-cooperation meant background investigators did not know the details of the 2004 arrest of Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.
Lack of continuous monitoring –
Top Secret revinvestigations occur every five years and Secret reinvestigations occur every 10 years. Between investigations the burden is on those possessing a security clearance to self-report issues. Supervisors are also under obligation to report issues, but in the case of Alexis, his military supervisors failed to report his arrests in 2008 and 2010, despite being aware of them.
Social Media and Internet Prohibitions in Investigations –
Investigators don’t just not see information available about applicants online, they’re barred from using the Internet in the course of their investigation. Social media use brings issues of privacy as well as the need to validate information found online, but leadership within the Federal Investigative Service urged that social media use, with analysis, could be used to aid the investigation process.
The report offered several proposals for security clearance reform, including updating electronic records and improving the information-sharing procedures between investigators and adjudicators. Some reforms, including increasing information sharing between adjudicators and investigators, could take congressional action and months. Others, including bans on using the Internet in the course of a background investigation, could be updated by OPM with simple changes to their Investigator’s Handbook.