Background Investigations

Ex-CIA Investigator Pleads Guilty to False Statements

In an earlier blog post it was mentioned that OPM chose to prosecute six investigators to send a message to potential offenders that they can face felony charges and jail time, instead of just being fired. Is this part of that message?

A former Central Intelligence Agency investigator pleaded guilty today to fabricating about 80 background checks of various people with summaries of interviews she did not conduct.  The investigator faces up to 12 months in prison and a potential $20,000 in fines. She also will be required to make $24,555 in restitution.  Her reports were used for hiring decisions and granting security clearance for people.

This is probably not a case of sabotaging investigations for the Russians! It’s more likely a case of laziness and/or incompetence. She had to know she was playing with fire, right? If it were a job that doesn’t affect national security, you’d be fired for lying, but that’s about it.

It’s unfortunate that only the bad news gets most of the attention these days and admittedly I am a contributor.

Comment Archive

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    Here we go again. This job is easily abused if you are not made-up of good moral charachter. Good riddens to her!!!!!!!

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    My thoughts exactly BW. During training we have a presenter come in from our Integrity Dept. who reiterates the importance of having high integrity as an investigator. She explains how OPM sends out random re-interview letters to sources and record providers. She also explains what other indicators their group looks for for possible falsification issues. Then she discusses the ramifications of getting caught. It is a great presentation

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    My latest contract has a GREAT quality control dept. They contact many of my sources to confirm the info I reported. I think it’s wonderful! I had been concerned in the past about the lack of accountability on another contract I had worked. I actually reported a fellow investigator who advised me that he was sick of doing I-notes for subject recontacts by phone and intended to report the new information (obtained as a recontact by phone) in the original report as though the info had come from his notes. Not that anything ever came out of it and he left on his own accord about a year later.

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    Sorry to say, but greed will always over-rule some folks’ common sense. We have been too conditioned to meeet the ACD’s that we sometimes do things even though we know they are wrong. When I say “We” I simply mean everyone as a whole. I try my best to hit my dates, but I will not cross the line to meet timeliness when I know I could not have from the start of the case and I would rather be late (And have been numerous times).

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    Another topic she discusses are the reasons investigators do falsify cases. Greed is one of them but there are many others such as ego (the I will never get caught mentality), family problems, lack of motivation and embarrassment in having to recontact a SJ or source for additional info.

    I would love to be a part of our Integrity Team. Kind of like a OIG for or company.

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    It saddens me to add another item to this blog topic, but on Wednesday the US Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan announced the indictment of Russell Vail a former background investigator for DHS.

    “According to the indictment from November 2008 through January 2009, while employed as an investigator for the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection, Vail submitted investigative reports containing fabricated summaries of interviews that he did not conduct. If convicted, Vail faces up to 5 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000 fine on each count.”

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    I expect many more of these to come-up. It is terrible how these investigators, who are probably decent people feel compelled to lie. I wish we knew more of the reason why -vs- the fact is was done. As you know, this is no job for a weak personality. The pressure in my 4.5 years in this arena has grown two-fold with unrealistic metrics for full timers. Now, if you are a sub doing this, there is no good reason to feel pressured as you accept only the amount of work you want. Sadly, I think there will come a day when this process implodes. I can honestly say, there is no way I will stay in this business as there are esssentially no raises, nothing but constant pressure filled days and no real reason to stay. There is no understanding when a date cannot be met, irregardless of uncooperative sources/subjs. I bet the other investigators here have seen literally hundreds of people come-and-go and I think it is going to get worse. Worse part is that nobody cares to listen to the day-to-day work horses in this process. I am as I have the ability to any pressure dealt, but I have watched many folks crumble along the way and these were good-hearted, security-minded, all around good people.

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    BW: What do you think the attrition rate is among contract investigators (not the sub-contractors) and is it significantly higher than a few years ago?

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    I think the rate of attrition is signifacantly higher on the private side. No disrespect to the government service employees, but they seem to stay as their metrics and other requirements are much lower (About 50-75 percent of my requirements), afterall the govt is not in it to make money as we are. This is where the biggest proble lies. I have talked to other company FT’s who have been doing this several years and are making 40,000. In most places the GS’s are in 11/12 spots and still not required to do much. Unfortunately, those who did not go to college hang-on (By a thread) because they have no other choice. I am hearing about folks simply falling apart due to the stress, resorting to drinking….etc…. There is no real work/life balance and many cannot adjust, nor should they have to. It’s sad because most of the folks have good intentions and simply are “Spoiled” after working this job a while. I am about 4.5 years in this job and I am an “Old Timer.”

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    I have heard that there is one company currently experiencing a 30% monthly attrition rate. I will second BW’s comment-the feds have more realistic goals for their investigators and are not revenue driven.