Background Investigations

Forget Background Checks – Try Continuous Monitoring

The latest step in the wave of security clearance reform is a renewed effort to apply ‘continuous monitoring’ to security-cleared professionals. The 2014 Intelligence Authorization Bill included a provision for ‘continuous evaluation’ – a requirement for agencies to evaluate public records such as credit histories and criminal backgrounds. Such electronic records would reveal information that would otherwise only appear in a periodic reinvestigation or as the result of a cleared professional self-reporting an issue.

With the leaks of defense contractor Edward Snowden continuing to trickle, it’s no surprise that congressional leaders are beginning to look at a program such as PRISM and wonder why it couldn’t be used to stop leaks in the first place. Continuous evaluation certainly has positive applications, given the fact that periodic reinvestigations for secret security clearances occur every 10 years, and in a world of tightening budgets the Defense Department is unlikely to find the extra dollars to make investigations happen more frequently.

Continuous monitoring, on the other hand, presents a myriad of additional issues for privacy advocates. Whether cybersecurity professionals and other in-demand workers will sign up for the government accessing their personal online actions is doubtful. And with all of that data, the question remains who would evaluate it – supervisors, security clearance investigators, adjudicators, or perhaps a completely new career field of cyber sleuths, working to snoop on cleared personnel?

And the biggest question – would it really help?

Read more.


Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    Sounds like a lot of Special Interviews.

  2. Avatar

    How would continuous evaluation of public records have changed Snowden’s B?. No arrests, no lawsuits, no credit problems as far as I have seen. In other cases, it may generate some type of reinvestigation or at least a SPIN. But without cooperation from police agencies, arrest details still may not be available. Let Congress pass legislation compelling PD to provide access to arrest records in national security investigations.

  3. Avatar

    Is this considered continuous monitoring?

    “The SF 87 is an OPM-sponsored form intended for use when collecting fingerprints from Federal
    civilian employees and military personnel. The FBI maintains SF 87 fingerprint images for military and
    Federal employees. This information supports the post-appointment arrest information process, which
    enables subsequent FBI criminal arrest information to be forwarded through OPM to the employing
    agency of a Federal employee. In such instances, OPM furnishes the agency contact with a copy of the
    FBI record and a FIPC 402, Agency Adjudication on FBI Post Appointment Arrest Form, characterizing
    the issue(s). The information is recorded in OPM’s SII. PIPS denotes fingerprints submitted on SF 87
    as FIPC Code “X.”

    The FD-258 is an FBI-issued collection chart intended for use when collecting fingerprints from
    contractor personnel. The FBI does not maintain FD-258 fingerprint images for contractor personnel.

    PIPS denotes fingerprints submitted on the FD-258 as FIPC Code “Y.” “

  4. Avatar

    This sounds like a giant leap in the right direction! Yes, this is a no-brainer. Forget personal sources in BI’s, they are worthless (even w/o a Privacy Act proviso). Maybe continue ESI’s but eliminate the canned questions and reporting. Have it be more open-ended and report what the Subject tells the investigator and don’t reduce an area of concern (aka, “issues”) to a series of useless disclaimer points (aka, “questions”). Report what the Subject feels is important to discuss and explain. Forget the gory details of delinquent financial accounts (records have all that info), just give a sort of human story to why things went south. And if they don’t feel compelled to do so, than fine, that also speaks to his or her lack of diligence and concern (trustworthiness/reliability). The ROI of the ESI should read like a 500-word article by a journalist.

    Yes, cyber sleuths, but not private-contractor cyber sleuths. I worked in the federal government in national security that involved some investigative work and I worked as an OPM background investigator for a private company. I was a bit shocked by the lack of thoroughness in the private sector due to profit motive. I had little, if any, confidence in the product. In fact, everything was subordinate to profit motive. It was a bit of a shock to me having leaned toward being an economic libertarian and believing the private sector was much more efficient and competent. Hire good people in the public sector and they will do a good job if left alone.

    This new approach will eliminate the need for thousands of private contractor investigators talking with hundreds of thousands of the Subjects’ hand-picked references and friends extolling the virtues of the Subject. Insource all security clearance BI work. Train OPM S/A’s in journalistic writing and cyber-sleuthing.

    This article is encouraging and shows things are moving in the right direction. Too bad it took national security incidents and private contractor fraud to get the ball rolling.

  5. Avatar

    Btw, counter-intuitively, I thinks the outsourcing of BI work to private contractors stunted, if not stopped altogether, the progress and development of the security clearance BI process. And the focus became how to make more buggy whips in less time. I’m not saying OPM shouldn’t farm out some work, just not investigative work. They should definitely hire some Palo Alto IT companies to create new information and reporting apps to use on a secure iPad for use by OPM S/A’s.

  6. Avatar

    The outsourcing of BIs to private contractors could potentially reduce the risk of furloughs even after a government shutdown. That’s what the Colorado company will be doing to its FIs the few days between Christmas and New Year’s this year because of lack of work.

  7. Avatar

    And by outsourcing, I mean insourcing.

  8. Avatar

    Oh furloughs. Hope the Xmas to New Years furlough is enough…

  9. Avatar

    I’m excited for the time off! They can’t furlough me long enough.

  10. Avatar

    Don’t forget to check your email and PIPS daily when you’re on furlough since it’s the end of the month – you know, in case you get rework…

  11. Avatar


    Funny you mention that. My higher up stated if we didn’t, they’d understand why.

  12. Avatar


    I think you mean WHEN we get reworks..

  13. Avatar

    CA Investigator,

    No kidding. It’s totally out of control right now. WOW!

  14. Avatar


    Yeah. I already wrote this quarter off statwise. It’s beyond a joke at this point.

  15. Avatar


    I can only hope that Continuous Monitoring does not come into play ever. I have endured Continous Monitoring due to miconceptions related to disability discrimination for the past two years and the process has ruined my life and forced me out of a federal job that I loved. On top of that, I was forced to use every penny I saved just to survive, and yet they still continue to monitor me as we speak. I want this to stop. If I had known that signing up to be a federal employee only gives everyone who ever had any tiny little disagreement with you to harass you to the point that your life is in ruins, I WOULD HAVE NEVER SIGNED UP FOR FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT IN A MILLION YEARS. The COSTS OUTWEIGHS THE BENEFITS. Continuous monitoring is only a way for nasty persons to circumvent the civil rights laws, and needs to be prevented from being implemented…EVER!

    Moreover, any potential problems related to security clearance adjudications or suitability would have been created from the government’s continuous monitoring of me over the last two years, for no fault of my own. How is this in the vicinity of fair?

    Best of Luck,