Investigators: Get your voice heard (privately) on the investigation process
A reporter from a national news source has contacted ClearanceJobs asking for investigators’ opinions on what’s wrong with the clearance investigation process and how it can be improved. You can of course give background information and not be named. After talking with the reporter for an hour, I’m confident he doesn’t have an agenda like many reporters do. He’s very open and balanced on what’s been going on in the news. If you’d like to speak to him and get your voice heard, PM me or leave a message here and I’ll connect you with him. Thanks
I’ll bite. Don’t know how to PM you but I’ll be interviewed as a “protected source”.
I’ll bite as well.
Talking to the media is a no no…..remember
Mr. Duh – Talking privately without giving out classified information is fine. In fact, its a great way for investigators to get heard, since they are rarely heard or seen and have little ability to voice their own concerns. If the government listened to front line investigators more, we’d likely have less Ed Snowdens running around.
Its more of a policy than anything to do with classified material
B*tching and moaning to the media does nothing but weaken the process.
So does everyone truly believe that there are no problems with the current “process”?
It’s not about bitching and moaning, it’s about opening dialogue. We bitch and moan about the process enough here 🙂
There are a lot of improvements that can be made to the process. The powers that be make decisions not based on issues of concern but administrative processes. If the media can help effect change, more power to them. Frankly, it IS a flawed process.
I do believe that most investigators are truly interested in doing what’s best for national security. That said, the investigation process has a number of flaws: Workloads are too heavy, technology is antiquated, there are too many new rules and guidelines that are constantly coming out and it’s hard for investigators to keep up. Additionally, investigators have too many restrictions – they are almost literally doing their work with one hand tied behind their backs. Even if none of the questions on the standard forms were changed, the process itself is flawed. Even some minor changes could have large impact. But in our age of sequestration, where do the budget dollars come from?
So I guess we can assume this is one of you?
If the paywall stops you, just google the headline and click it from there.
Wow, so it was a USIS investigator who had Snowden’s case? That’s the first I’ve heard of that.
Interesting article. While I can think of plenty of practices at USIS that OPM might not like, this does sound a bit of a witch hunt (unless there’s some evidence of falsification on his BI).
Despite admin’s first comment above, I have yet to read anything about Snowden’s background that would indicate that he should/would have failed a background investigation.
We have been told OPM reviews 100% of the cases we do after we review them. Why didn’t they pick up on anything strange or out of the ordinary for his case? I am not saying USIS is perfect but OPM needs to take some of the blame as well!
@Very Special Investigator
Do you think that failure to complete high school in this day and age is usually indicative of someone who has issues with authority or with following rules and regulations?
OPM only started reviewing 100% of cases after the 2011 contract went into effect. This article states the investigation into contract fraud started in 2011. So it must have started around the time the new contract went into effect. It also is interesting that it was not the Snowden issue that prompted this investigation. I’m wondering what did.
Heard the news on Fox regarding OPM BI, USIS, et al., and had to check in here again.
Come on people, does anyone think the way BI’s for security clearances are done that a guy like Snowden could be uncovered?!! What would be uncovered? About 10% of the people I had to interview I wouldn’t trust for a second but the process is so superficial and PC there wasn’t anything to disqualify them. I had bad people whose listed references or coworkers wouldn’t go on the record (they were protected sources, i.e., not used for adjudication). I find it hard to believe anyone would be disqualified from an OPM security investigation process that wouldn’t be disqualified by doing simple checks (credit, criminal, etc).
A background investigation for a top secret security clearance in a nutshell:
You call yourself “an investigator retained by the United State Office of Personnel Management”. You have a business card that says “contract investigator”. You have credentials that say “contractor investigator” in large font on the top and bottom (the largest letters on the creds read “contractor”).
[People you interview]: “So, you are not with the U.S. Government?”
[Me]: “No, I am a contract investigator. A special investigator retained…”
[People you interview]: “Huh, okay. Well, I talked with [Subj] and they told me what this was about and said it was okay to talk with you.”
1) Interview a Subj
You read back to them what they filled out in their security questionnaire. The security questionnaire (EQIP) is a user-unfriendly and stupid questionnaire that asks questions like, “Have ever attempted to overthrow the United States Government by force?” Then you can connect with your inner Columbo and get to the bottom of how they could live in Falls Church, VA and work in Bethesda, MD? Or how six years ago they could have a residence in Rockville, MD yet claim to be going to school at Virginia Tech?! …”Oh, and one more question [flicking cigar]…why did leave off a prior investigation for a DOD secret clearance from March 1988? Think it over. Do I need to repeat U.S. Code section 1001?”
Then if your lucky they have criminal, drug, alcohol, credit issues you need to get gruesome level of details on. If you have credit problems that would prevent you from getting a Target store card, no problem, we’ll just get to the bottom of your list of account delinquencies by asking questions like, “Do you intend to pay your debts in the future?” For drugs, “Do you intend to use in the future?” Etc.
2) interview coworkers, neighbors, references
You interview people the Subj provides. They all tell you he/she is great, the best. You put the praiseworthy adjectives aside and go through canned questions, “Are you aware of any illegal drug use? Illegal or compulsive gambling? Have they attempted to overthrow the U.S. Government by force?…”
If there are people out there with derogatory information they are ones who don’t talk with you.
You play phone tag and jackass around to get records with one-quarter the level of detail you can can get off LinkedIn or a free internet search engine.
You use a very user unfriendly report writing system to be transmitted in a DOS-based system. You write onerous reports which are about 75% disclaimers (what is not the case regarding this individual). If they have issues the disclaimers are even a higher percentage of the report. I.e., if they had a $40 medical bill that went to collection you must provide a bunch of declarations such as:
“This debt is not related to alcohol, drugs, or gambling.”
“They intend to pay their debts in the future.”
“It could never be used to blackmail them.”
Then they go to review. You sometimes get them kicked back. For instance, in a case where a 40-year guy got citation for possession of alcohol as a minor the case reviewer wants you to put in a disclaimer (among the 15 others) saying he doesn’t intend to engage in this activity in the future.
Security clearance background investigations by OPM have all the sophistication, effectiveness and efficiency of door-to-door encyclopedia sales in 2013.
Sorry for the grammatical mistakes…
Then if you’re lucky…et al.
I’ve missed you. Hilarious because it’s true!
As a former security clearance investigator I would be willing to talk to the reporter. I was hired as independent contractor and when I exercised my right under the contract to refuse assignments (record pull with report for $20 and I pay for gas and parking), I was told I could not refuse any assignments. OK, so I said then I must be an employee then so give me my vacation, sick time, social security taxes, car allowance etc. Umm no, you don’t get that as you are not an employee.
Oh, I get it. I’m an independent contractor when it comes to no benefits and shitty pay but when I want to exercise my right under the contract to refuse an assignment, I’m treated like an employee?
Ironic that you can only get a security clearance if you are honest and ethical but the company that hires or retains you can break wage law, IRS law, contract law and be blatantly dishonest about the terms of service.
We all agree, but wouldn’t want to be that investigator on Snowden case. It would have taken all of 10 minutes to find out he was not a Spec Ops Soldier, had no degree…etc. Not to sound suspicious, but tread lightly with anyone who says you can remain anonymous.
Oh, I forgot to add… as a contract investigator you will not have a security clearance. All the private contract investigators working on security clearance investigations have no security clearance.
[Subj]: “So what level of security clearance do you have, Special Investigator?”
[Me]: “Who me? [finger pointing at self] Oh, I have no clearance whatsoever. Not even confidential. Now let’s get started General and go over and make sure what you put down is correct.”
[Subj]: “Like what stuff I put down is correct?”
[Me]: “You know, your full name and date of birth. Or your nine-digit passport number or your mother-in-law’s date of birth, etc.”
[Subj]: “First off, couldn’t a two-second check be done to see if there is a problem with the former, and with the latter, do you really expect me to remember what I copied down from my previous EQIP?”
[Me]: “Look pal, I didn’t come here to be made sport of. I’m just doing my job and what they told me to do. I’m just working this job to support my family on the $18 an our they pay me. Well, maybe $10 per hour when you factor in all the extra time I need to take to complete the assigned work. Now, let’s get started generalissimo. Your first name is ‘Tadeusz’, common spelling. Middle name is…”
You’ve pretty much summed up the process in an extremely hilarious and accurate way. Kudos and thanks for the laugh!
I don’t know how someone can find out if a guy was not spec ops, et al., in 10 minutes. If someone says they were, they were. To inquire into something like this might get into classified/sensitive info which is something verboten to investigators. Besides, the average investigator nowadays is a 22 or 23-year old girl who might have had one previous job at a summer camp or working retail at Old Navy. The nature and pay of the job today has made it the case.
Your right about anonymity. I just assume everything is on the record. And I don’t know what an investigator could provide to the press that hasn’t already been discussed on this site, or USIS reviews at Glassdoor, et al. The standard two dozen questions asked of personal sources could be gotten from any one of the dozen sources interviewed by an investigator each week. The questions asked of Subject’s is on the SF-86 which available to anyone. I think the media/press want to talk with investigators because they think, lot a of people, that there is something more to it. Nope, just phone tag and jackassing all around to ask canned questions of friends and associates who always and only say positive things.
Again sorry for the typos. This site needs an edit feature.
You’re right about anonymity…
My 20 Years of military tells me there is no such classified troops. If they say they are, they are lying. Hell, I can order anybody’s DD Form 214 from this computer at home. But, I surely get your point.
It wouldn’t surprise me that Snowden lied about being a spec op to a contract investigator. Don’t forget that although contract investigators advise people about Title 18, contract investigators place people under *un*sworn declaration. I can’t tell you the number of awkward looks people have given me when I do that and I’m sure Edward Snowden was one of those people.
I don’t know that he “lied” about being Special Forces. It sounds to me like he was one of those 18-X enlistees and got hurt and discharged either in boot camp or sometime during SF selection or something like that. Which still wouldn’t make him special forces but isn’t exactly inaccurate.
Check out this blast from the past concerning the privatization of the background process.
From the 1996 article Fed linked to:
…“Senator Paul Simon of Illinois, a Democrat who raised objections to the plan last year. “Turn it over to private investigators and the invitation to abuse is going to be very real. We’re going to see privacy problems, security problems and sloppy work.”
But many employees of the investigative service said they were uncomfortable with their work becoming part of a for-profit business.
“I truly believe that the type of work we do is inherently governmental,” said Deborah Apperson, a senior investigator in the investigations office. “There should be strict controls and strict access. It’s not something that should have the profit motive behind it.”
Another investigator in a field office, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he would make more money under the privatization plan because he has enough years of service to collect a Federal pension while continuing to work at full salary for the new company. But he said he still opposes the plan.
“I think you’re opening yourself up to a possible weakening of the whole national security function,” the investigator said. “Those of us from O.P.M. who will work at the private company have integrity, but we won’t be around forever, and the people who replace us won’t have the same experience or salaries. Pretty soon it will be the junkyard guard dog company.”
I appreciate your criticisms, but if all the contractors went away and OPM were greatly expanded to handle 100% of the work, I’m not sure that any of these problems would go away. I do think quality would almost certainly go up, but timeliness would go way down, which would cause it’s own problems. The real problem is the workload (i.e. – the number of cleared individuals). You could re-nationalize the investigations and get better quality, but be prepared for the inevitable back-up that will come with it and took almost 10 years to catch up with after 9/11.
Every fed investigator I’ve been interviewed by has been a joke. No offense to the good ones out there but its true. I along with my co workers laugh every time we get interviewed by a fed opm investigator. Half the questions are skipped and follow up on questions is horrible. My last esi( squeaky clean) was 20 minutes. We all know that is not long enough. Fed is not always the way to go.
Another one bites the dust.
Very Special Investigator,
I heard some stat on Fox News last night that USIS made $200 million from OPM last year. First off, return all investigations to federal. For-profit national security investigations was a bad idea to start with and it has only gotten worse. It has also ruined the image and perception of these investigations due to what the OPM federal investigator in said:
“Those of us from O.P.M. who will work at the private company have integrity, but we won’t be around forever, and the people who replace us won’t have the same experience or salaries. Pretty soon it will be the junkyard guard dog company.”
The private companies increased their profits by having low salaries and hiring less experienced and lower-quality investigators. It has turned into a starter job for a kid out of college with a criminal justice degree.
But addressing the issue of volume of work, that is easily remedied. Cut out the worthless personal sources. If you continue with personals than at least allow collateral. If a person rents an apartment, get a rental record. No need for personals (any derogatory info will be in a record/landlord’s notes if anywhere). If a guy owns a house, try to talk to a direct neighbor. If you can find one, fine. Don’t require two for each RESI, which means the investigator asks the Subj to provide him with names and numbers of friends (or the Subj’s spouse) to corroborate he lives there. Same with employment. What is a coworker going to tell you that is not in an HR file (especially a coworker provided to you by the Subj)? If there is no EMPL record than if you can find someone who worked with him, fine. Same with EDUC, et al. Attempt to use the phone as much as possible, including for Subj interviews.
And streamline report writing big time. Forget the nonsense format. Write it all in narrative form as informally as an email and use disclaimers only when necessary to highlight a key point in an issue. If you have the ESI, RESI, EMPL, and REFEs then put it all together in one report form. Not this piecemeal nonsense that consumes inordinate amount of time and second-guessing about proper format (“Do I use the no record format when I was not expecting a record, or is that just for LAWE and not EMPL??”).
I could go on for hours about obvious way to improve and streamline investigations.
To clarify what I meant, you put all the sources you obtain together into one report, with only one entry field. Have the report be like a newspaper article, but even less formal. All the info obtained is there, and isn’t that the point?
If anyone is interested in the Senate Subcommittee meeting yesterday, here ya’ go. McCaskill really got some good stuff in, Mert Miller took a large portion of the questioning, good stuff.
Very Special Investigator:
There is a way to have contractor investigators without having Investigation Service Providers (ISPs) like USIS, Omniplex, and KGS. DSS did it in the 1990’s and FBI and State Department are doing it right now. DSS had individual contract investigators who were controlled by field office SACs. State Department and FBI uses individual contract investigators, but they are managed from a central office.
BW: No classified troops? Search your memory a little deeper. Fed Investigator should know what I’m talking about–the routine background investigations that came registered mail in double envelopes.
Fed Investigator: Thanks for the link to C-Span. It was much better than reading the prepared statements.
There are several agencies who have direct contracts- USAID, ATF, Peace Corps. Contracts are directly with the investigator. Much, much more oversight. And much stricter hiring standards.
Interesting short article here
Another thing I find a bit odd is that after reading an article about the probe/investigation into USIS starting in 2011, it was in late 2011 and early 2012 that our company decided to realign and many upper level managers were let go or chose to resign. One of them that chose to resign went to a competitor and then came back to USIS after about 9 months or so. Yet after being back with USIS for a short time we got an e-mail that his employment with USIS had ended effective immediately. We were never told why he left but rumors are because he may have said cases we did were fully reviewed by our review staff before going to the the agency (this was before OPM did 100% full review) when the cases actually had not been reviewed at all and were just sent to the agency. Again all rumor. Also most if not all of the upper management who was around in 2011 and before the investigation started are no longer with the company.
A few things I also wonder about are 1.) Now that the investigation into USIS is public can OPM justify giving work to USIS to do? I know if they don’t there will be a back up on cases. 2.) With the investigation public can the contract USIS won be voided and a new contract rebid process start?
If everything goes right I won’t have to worry about any of this after this Thursday as I have an interview for a job completely out of the field. A job that I am much more interested in and will be more happy to go to!
Good luck on the interview–you will do great. If there is one thing we all do well, it is talk shxt.
Sam, I agree with you. There is one company at least in one area of the country who is currently crossing that fine line between employee and contractor. The powers that be are aware it is happening but don’t seem to be taking any action. Could become very precarious and expensive for them, especially because a lot of their denial to allow contractors to pick and choose work is in writing.
Regarding the use of contract inveistigators, I’d be willing to bet that the scale of the OPM contract would make it difficult for things to work as smoothly as they do with contract investigators on those (much) smaller contracts. If my estimation is correct, USIS and KGS have somewhere in the neighborhood of 10k investigators between them. That’s a whole lot of people to manage on an individual contractor/investigator basis if things were to go back in that direction. Much, much easier to manage the relatively small number of investigators with agencies like FBI, USSS, Omniplex, etc.
As of our latest metrics posting, USIS only has about 2000 investigators. We also learned that there are only about 275 reviewers reviewing all of the work the approximately 2000 investigators are doing.
To make it clear though, that is about 2000 FTEs at USIS. I have no idea how many contractors work for USIS.
Ah. Very well. For some reason I had it in my mind that USIS had around 7,000 and KGS around 3,500. No idea why I thought that.
Damn you DOJ! My SJ was granted a TS/SCI for his DOJ position in 2011. My SJ just joined the Air National Guard and needs a TS for hisAir National Guard position. He told me his Air National Guard Security Manager contacted DOJ and DOJ would not even confirm SJ worked for the DOJ. So now we are spending a few thousand dollars to conduct a BI for basically no reason.
Very Special Investigator,
At its high point in 2008 OPM FISD had about 9,500 personnel (federal and contractor)—about 7700 field investigative personnel and about 1800 support personnel. That number has declined since then. They’re probably at about 6900 field and 1600 support personnel. My best guess is that about 25% to 30% of the field personnel are federal employees. If USIS has 2,000 investigators and 45% of the contractor workload, then my estimates are reasonably accurate.
I don’t think that centrally managing about 5000 contract investigators is a very good idea either, but I’m not certain that 1:2 or 1:3 is the optimum ratio of federal to contract investigators.
I’m not a big fan of the OPM business model or the FBI/DOS/USSS business model for managing field investigations. I prefer a model where federal employees in the position of SAC, ASAC, or Team Chief at the field office level supervise/manage all federal investigators and all contractor investigators within their AO.
There is a concept of “economy of scale.” Having one investigative organization (instead of four—FISD, USIS, KGS, & Omniplex) should save more than enough money to significantly increase in the number of federal field offices and supervisory investigators. I had a good relationship with the four contract investigators I managed in the 1990’s. They shared a bullpen with my other investigators and everyone got along well. I think there would be a lot of secondary benefits to this type of system. No one can review an ROI better than a supervisory investigator who knows his/her AO. And no one is better able to establish reasonable productivity standards for his/her AO than a supervisory investigator. This business of working from home makes sense in some area but not in others and needs to be completely reevaluated.
I firmly believe that security clearance investigations are an inherently governmental activity. I also believe that this inherently governmental activity can and should be performed in part by contract investigators under the direct supervision of a federal employee. I don’t know what the optimum ratio of federal to contractor investigators should be. I suspect it would vary from AO to AO.
New here. Started with DIS in 1989 left in 2009 after putting up with the OPM crap for too long. I can’t believe people are conducting BIs without a clearance. Is OPM and its minions even pretending to identify persons with interests that could harm the security of the US? It took DSS six months to a year to allow an agent to work independently and conduct subject interviews. They remained on OJT and were used to verify records or residences until they were fully competent. The last I heard, the contractors were lucky to get two weeks of ride along and what ever DOS they could pick up from training.
Are any referrals for intel issues being sent to the alphabet agencies? Are the military still reporting adverse actions or are they just covering all of them up now?
William Henderson: I remember the double wrapped, the DO NOT TRANSMIT, and the organizations that were never to be acknowledged or even have their acronym mentioned. Does that mean that I’m old?
I was talking to a couple of old coworkers about Snowden. We all thought there would be a major security problem long ago. Our regional manager was more concerned with prison guards getting hired than with the group from the PRC touring the aerospace company.
Sounds good to me. Where do I sign up?
The Fayatteville, NC fieldwork contract is open on the FBO website. Looks like a pilot program. Not enough guaranteed work to make it worth it unless you at already a contractor in that part of the country.
I have talked to a few SAC’s who thought they should watch-over contractors. IMO all that would happen is the FEDS would just waste more money by creating a few thousand new GS 14’s and 15’s like they normally do. I don’t think anything would be accomplished to make this better.
The arguments used to federalize airport screening– and create 50k new federal employees– is even a more powerful argument for national security investigations. And in private airport screening you didn’t even have the quality-corrupting aspect of profit for production. Make it all federal and put it under DoD.
“You’re a Special Agent from the Office of Personal Management?”
“No, a special investigator retained by…” .
“Why have I never heard of this agency? And you said you’re with the U.S. Government?”
“Yes it is, but I’m not. I’m what’s called a ‘contractor investigator’.”
“For the Office of Personnel Management?”
“No a company who contracts with them.”
“Ok, whatever. I think I did this for Bob a few years back. He told me you guys might be around. And as I told the last guy, he’s a great guy, perfect neighbor. What do you want to know?”
Having non-fed investigators, “contractor investigators”, makes the whole process look sort of unserious or even bogus (especially neighborhood canvassing in your ’93 Nissan Sentra). And I can imagine it is tough even for OPM Feds because the people I encountered (even educated ones) had never heard of this agency. For non-retirees I would jog their memory by pointing out that this is the agency that runs the USAJobs website (“oh yeah”).
Btw, if any of you contractor investigators are reading this post, get back to work! It’s end of the month, hurry up and get those cases in so the company can get paid. Close it out by phone testimonies, i-notes, whatever.
I laughed at that last paragraph. And now I have to get back to work because it’s the end of th month….sad face.
I wish SACs were GS 14 or 15’s. They top out at 13, unless there are some special circumstances.
I’m all for being a 14 or 15 though. 🙂
I mean I would like to be a 14 or 15 when and if I do become a SAC.
Straight from USIS’ website
For those who haven’t seen the Washington Post last night/today
USIS seems to be in complete denial based on their reaction to the two probes. This is really bad, a proposal to completely drop them from the OPM contract? Although many of us are yearning for reform in this industry, I’d be afraid that that would make things worse. Who’d get all the rest of the work?
This has been a LONG time coming. Its no secret to the industry and especially to the investigators of USIS that they have been pushing the investigators way to hard to get these cases done. Over the past 10 years I have seen USIS go from a good, quality investigative company to a sweatshop report producer. Years ago it used to be about developing issues and quality work. Now its about doing whatever it takes(working off the clock, short interviews, shoddy attempts at coverage, etc) to close a case. There has been a mass exodus of staff either quitting the field entirely or just going over the CACI or Keypoint. OPM should have been looking at USIS long before 2011. Now its just going to be a blame game until someone takes the fall. Most likely its going to be USIS with the rest of the contract companies suffering indirectly. Switching back to all fed is not in the $$$$. And we all know federal is not always better. After being around for a while we all get interviewed by the “super special gold badge” agents. From what i have experienced they should be the ones worrying about the outcome of this. No more 15 minute ESI’s and 2 minute source interviews for them……..
Remember, a lot of USIS people returned to OPM in 2004 before OPM took over investigations from DSS. The OPM management wanted to bring loyal people with them so they could help re-educate the DSS agents for punishment for being privatized in 1995-96 (?). The few DSS agents still with OPM are the ones that couldn’t retire or find other jobs due to the stigma of having worked for OPM. My experience with OPM is the same crap job and shitty management was brought with the USIS deserters when they came to take over DSS investigations.
As for the “super special gold badge” agents, it was my experience with DIS and DSS that short cuts and shoddy work were not tolerated. I have seen idiots still on probation let go for poor performance and 20 yr. veterans encouraged to retire for taking short cuts. I take great pride that I have personally ended the career work status of slackers when I learned they were doing 20 minute SIs on the phone, not reporting adverse information, or not interviewing someone requesting confidential status due to fear of the Subject. Many of the OPM “super special gold badge” agents were useless when they went to OPM. Because of cronyism, they are allowed to stay on until they can get Fed retirement.
My first SAIC informed me than a “clean” SI should take at least 45 minutes. An hour was average. Anything less was just pissing in the wind. But then, we were dealing with national security not OPM job security.
You do know there are those of us who take pride in what we do, gold badge and all. Paint with a broad brush all you want but I’ve worked with and for some excellent people in my federal career.
There are good and bad in all sides. I don’t always blame the individual, I blame the game. Let’s simply clean it up and make it better. It’s not always money driving this–it’s the lack of experience, combined with a lack of decent pay for the worker-bees. There will always be bad apples in everything we do. No process can be repeated about 3 million times a year and have it done 100% correct. We are not manufacturing parts for a car with robotics.
I assume the reporter has been vetted? If so, please disregard my comment.
I think having an anonymous survey is an excellent idea and would likely yield very useful information for improving the current investigative process.
However, you may also want to consider the value of this information should it be placed in the hands of our adversary.
If you were a foreign intel service and wanted to put a sleeper agent in the USG, what better way to penetrate the system than to find out — from the people that ACTUALLY do the investigations — where the weak points are.
I’m sure that the people at clearancejobs.com have already thought this through, but thought I’d pass on my concerns nonetheless. Thanks.
As a CBI with previous and extensive reporting experience, I can say I’m envious of a fellow reporter doing a story on clearances; it’s so high profile and sexy-hot topic. However, I also see the clear dangers of having our nation’s internal vetting vulnerabilities exposed and so would tell others to NOT talk to reporters regarding clearance problems due to sensitive nature of job and national security concerns. I know that’s a bummer idea to those who are frustrated with BI job, and think it would be fun to talk to a reporter if that is a new experience…..I myself was thinking of writing about my own BI career but then realize it already had been covered in “Alice in Wonderland.”
There isn’t a foreign CI agency on the planet that is not more highly trained than anyone in the BI process. The weakness is not just the process, it’s the lack of understanding. This system is not designed for privacy when you can simply google everything, to include DOHA reports.
I had to laugh at your 40 year old with the drinking underage arrest. I still have to disclose my arrest for minor in possession when I was 19 because its an alcohol related criminal offense. I’m 35 now, when I was 24 I took her questions about the incident so seriously and was worried. I’ve done two PR’s since then and they still have to ask me the same sort of “dumb questions” like “Do you intend to re-offend?” …I actually feel bad for the investigators who have to ask this question.
On a more serious note, the “stock” questions are bad. It’s “taboo” to ask about politics in America but really certain types of beliefs should disqualify you from holding a clearance; People advocating on blog sites that the US Govt should have no secrets, people who believe 9/11 conspiracy theories, people who believe Sandy Hook conspiracy theories etc.. All of those beliefs are strongly held by people and would likely lead them to leak to the press or expose a pattern of thinking which shows they perceive the USG as a constant threat to their safety.
The other issue is we have too much over classification, not everything is TS/SCI or should be. We wouldn’t need 1.5 million TS cleared personnel in the country if we kept truly damaging intelligence limited to that access group and all other information maintained at a different level. Also seriously, when is the last time you saw a job posting for “Confidential Cleared Agent” …the simple truth is that the more people know something the more likely it is to leak out or the person is to be corrupted and flipped.