DOJ Alleges Fraudulent Security Checks By Firm That Vetted Snowden

January 23, 2014

The private contractor that signed off on background checks for both NSA leaker Edward Snowden and Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis is being accused of fraud by the Justice Department for allegedly submitting more than 650,000 incomplete investigations.

The Two-Way’s Eyder Peralta first reported in September that U.S. Investigations Services was under criminal investigation for its questionable vetting practices.

In Wednesday’s complaint, USIS, the largest outside investigator for government security clearances, is accused of engaging in a practice it called “dumping” or “flushing,” that involved intentionally sending the government hundreds of thousands of cases that weren’t properly reviewed.

The complaint quotes one USIS official in a memo to his superiors in 2010 as saying cases had been “flushed … like a dead goldfish,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

The New York Times reports:

“Government lawyers accused the company of releasing investigations that had not been complete, a practice referred to in court documents as ‘dumping.’ The government quoted from internal company emails to argue that the practice was widespread.”

“‘Have a bit of a backlog building, but fortunately, most people are off this week so no one will notice!’ one USIS employee wrote in 2010.”

Justice claims that from 2008 to 2012, about 40 percent of the investigations by USIS were fraudulently submitted.

USIS, which employs 6,000 workers and has served as the government’s largest security background check company since that function of the federal government was privatized by the Clinton administration in 1996, says in a statement that “integrity and excellence are core values.”

“The alleged conduct referenced in the civil complaint is contrary to our values and commitment to exceptional service,” USIS says. “These allegations relate to a small group of individuals over a specific period of time and are inconsistent with the strong service record we have earned since our inception in 1996.”

The WSJ reports:

“USIS conducted what federal officials say was a faulty 2011 background investigation of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified documents on the government’s surveillance programs to the international media. The company also conducted a 2007 security examination of Aaron Alexis, the defense contractor who died last September after killing 12 people in a shooting spree at the Washington Navy Yard.”

“USIS has said that the government raised no objections at the time about its review of Mr. Snowden and that it was unable to comment on alleged problems with the check of Mr. Alexis because it wasn’t allowed under its contract to retain records.”

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