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 focus thus far has been on the investigation, but as William Loveridge astutely points out, the adjudication of security clearance investigations is an inherently governmental function. So while there may have been gaps in the investigation, there are two other individuals with some responsibility – the adjudicator, and the facility security officer who pushed the documents forward. Not to mention Mr. Snowden, himself, who bares sole responsibility for the leaks and criminal responsibility if he’s found to have lied in the security clearance process.
The first-focus is always on the low-hanging fruit – the investigation. This is especially the case considering a contract investigation company is already in the hot seat. But fairly soon, we may be seeing increased scrutiny on the other components of the clearance process.