It's Not Just an Investigation, It's Adjudication

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.

Comment Archive

  1. Avatar

    If there were a security violation at the CIA and an OPM contract investigator, not a CIA contract investigator, was conducting the investigation, I’d be shocked if the CIA security office would release any information. Trust me, dealing with them from the OPM contract perspective can be challenging.

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    I currently work the Ft. Meade area and it can be pretty tough to cover an employment when you can’t even get in the building where the Subject works! I’m always amazed at the amount of sources who never return my calls. Once a higher up DoD employee told me he didn’t return my calls because I didn’t have a local number. Perhaps with the budget cuts, they can’t afford to dial long distance? No one told me that to be a successful OPM Investigator I’d have to change my phone number every time I moved.

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    Does CIA even cooperate? It looks like Snowden told his investigator he could not provide employmemt leads as it was classified. What then, what could the investigator do at that point? Why there were no refs interviewed looks to be a big problem, I mean not one?

    It’s time for national standards to change that if you can’t provide at least one source for each employment, then no clearance. Put in on the Subjects to have to provide good contact info. You would start getting more cooperation then as Subjects would be forced to have sources contact you. It would at least give the investigator a chance to develop further leads. I would only exempt military on deployments of a year or less.

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    Retired clandestine people are prohibited from naming current CIA employees so it does suck to try and get employment sources. OPM could contract to the CIA for them to do the employment source interviews at their agency. I really don’t know the answer…

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    Of course the problem is that the USIS investigator who worked on Snowden’s case, like other contract investigators, didn’t have a security clearance. That needs to change as well.

    BTW gang, any idea how close OPM is to eliminating this PR backlog they’ve had the better part of the year?

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    I think the goal was by the end of the fiscal year but I could be wrong. And if that is the goal, who knows if it will be met. I know there is a huge hiring push at one company and a lot of TDY…

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    Got on here to post the same thing as other. No way CIA is going to let an OPM investigator review one of their security files. Even if the investigator had creds for CIA investigations, the file would almost certainly be classified and thus unreportable to OPM.

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    Here is a link to a new report put out by the Congressional Research Service with some background on the security clearance process. I thought it may be helpful to some of your readers who don’t work in the field better understand the overall process.

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    That was my understanding as well re: the backlog situation. But with my company, we went last week from being told no impending TDYs in October to this week where myself and several colleagues were called and being told TDYs for October are on. We’re all a little tired to say the least. It’s been a challenging year for everyone.

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    @Former Fed – thank you for the link. Defeinitely a great resource!

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    Oh, no! I heard at the beginning of this week that October was going to be a more reasonable month overall. Sad to hear the TDY’s are continuing.

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    Yep, that’s what our higher up told us. Things can change. Miracles can happen. But who knows.

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    So here’s my questions- with the push to get the PR backlog down these past few months, isn’t that going to create a backlog of other case types? So once we work through the PR’s, we’re going to turn our focus to other cases, therefore starting another PR backlog… Endless cycle, if you ask me. Or job security.

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    That’s what I’ve thought of as well. However, in my area, while we were working on PRs we were also working on other case types as well. But we were told the work was “being turned off” in September and no one know when the work is being “turned back on” even though we were given the impression it would be October. I just foresee a lot of RSIs everywhere in FY2014.

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    I don’t think I’ve looked at a security file since 2007 and suddenly I’m seeing case messages about ensuring they are properly covered. I’ve also had a couple reopens lately where the Subject has had a minor issues (personality conflict/cell phone into secure area) and somehow this requires review of the security

    Clearly, the review of defense contractor security files is the key to preventing the next Snowden/Manning/Ames/Hanssen.

    Another recent gem: Subject fills out case papers in 1/2013. Interview isn’t done until 7/2013. In 4/2013, Subject gets a written warning. OPM kicks it back – Why didn’t the Subject list this on the case papers. Gee, I don’t know, maybe the Subject didn’t plan the write up 4 months in advance?

  16. Avatar

    Sadly, this may turn out to be another case that gets added to the debate regarding the security clearance process.

    “The dead gunman in Monday’s shooting at the Washington Navy Yard is Aaron Alexis, 34, a Navy veteran who was discharged after he was arrested in a shooting incident—but was later hired by a government subcontractor.”

  17. Avatar

    Prior gun charges and discharge for misconduct. Should have been a SPIN at the very least.

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    He had two gun-related arrests. He was being treated for mental illness and was hearing voices. And he had a secret-level security clearance. Yep, sounds like the BI security clearance investigation process I know. And I’m sure if I had interviewed all his references (that he would have provided)– the ones the media found and all said were shocked, he was so nice– would give a private contract investigator the real scoop. And if one might reveal that he talked about see a shrink and hearing voices in his head they would most certainly be a protected source and not used in adjudication.

    I don’t know if there was a SPIN. Finding out about psychiatric issues/treatment is either volunteered by the Subject (SF-86 or in the ESI) or it is not known. If there was a SPIN I’m sure the contract investigator had a half-dozen deadlines that day, was rushing off for another few interviews afterwards and a night of report writing. This is the world of BI security clearance investigations done by for-profit companies. I thought the Snowden affair and blow-up and Senate hearings about private contractors doing (rushing through) national security BI investigations would overhaul the whole process. But the end product? They simply made things even more burdensome and administrative. The job was already 98% administrative box-checking and CYA stuff and at most 2% investigative (uncovering stuff).

    Maybe a new Congressional hearing on the contractors doing BI’s for security clearances is in order? They should start by issuing a subpoena for all emails from private OPM contractors and focus on the ones pressing field investigators to complete more work for company revenue. Yeah, right. Maybe the government overseers and the private contractors can talk it over on their 9 o’clock tee time together in Ashburn this morning.

  19. Avatar

    Another news story questioning why Aaron Alexis was granted a security clearance

  20. Avatar

    Isn’t a SECRET good for 10 years? When was his most recent investigation vs the first gun charge?

  21. Avatar

    Where did CNN get their “expert”?

    From the article:

    So why was he given clearance?
    “The way it happens is a poor background check,” says Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent.
    Many contractors are initially given secret level clearance, which “means that the background check really hasn’t been done yet, but it’s in the process of being done,” he said.
    Navy Yard shooting: What we know and don’t know
    A background check, which includes searching records and running fingerprints, would have discovered if Alexis left anything off the form he filled out.
    “And if it had left anything substantial out, it would be an immediate denial of the clearance,” Clemente said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”

    I’m still laughing, immediate denial of clearance? Hilarious!

  22. Avatar

    Once again, let’s blame the contractor FI as if a Federal Investigator would have done more. It was a Secret – mail inquiries only, maybe just a SPIN and only if he was arrested and fingerprinted or if he admitted it on his case papers. The contractor has no leeway and must meet the standards set by OPM. If these standards are inadequate, blame the system and the adjudicators, not the FI who does the SPIN for not finding out about something not reported in any database.
    Many contractor FIs I know have years more investigative experience conducting real investigations than 9 of 10 OPM “Special Agents” I’ve met. I only know one with prior LE.
    As far as the CNN expert, if it is the same Clemente I know, he only spent 10 years in the FBI before resigning and is far from being an expert.

  23. Avatar

    I’ve met 9 out 10 contract investigators with snot hanging out of thier nose and a finger up their butt.

    See how helpful that is?

    And for the record, I have a man crush on Darrow.


  24. Avatar


    It only happened the one time and I wiped immediately–quit picking on me.

    Let the internet made-up stories begin on this tragic incident.

    Love the expert–if the Navy adjudicated this, I suppose a check of their own files may have been kinda important.

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    I agree with NY Invest. in relation to there is little difference between a contract or fed Investigator. Only differences I know are who signs the paycheck and the color of the badge. Instead of attacking the contractor attack the process. I work for the big contractor and believe me I have plenty of my own complaints regarding how they do business, but the problem is the extremely short turn around on cases and the amount we are required to work at any given time. It’s been all down hill since the NID for contractor and federal.

  27. Avatar

    Good points by NY Inv. I agree that it is the system is the problem not the FI. The whole system is majorly or completely broken.

    When I was a FI I know I had med/psych’s for TS’s (for people in critical positions) that I RT/UCed because of short ACD’s. I made the perfunctory (“required”) attempts and then moved on. And I know there was not a follow up because it would’ve been assigned to me. In all my years I only had one psychiatrist answer yes (the Subject is unfit) to the three questions asked of a med/psych source (and I think he just misunderstood the question). And I always knew there was something flawed about this because it took me less than 5 minutes in an interview to realize that a lot of these subjects not only had issues, but full subscriptions.

    But adjudications for security clearances is all based on sanitized records and interviewing people provided by the Subject. Even if you found a friend whose conscience and patriotism compelled them to spill the beans in private, do you think they’d reconsider after telling them you are a private contract investigator and everything they say is on the record and available to the Subject. What an offer! Everyone is chomping at the bit to go on the record and tell the truth about the office psychopath and move to the top of the queue when he loses his job/career.

    BI’s for security clearances need to be completely overhauled. Scrapped completely. They are 98% administrative busy work and at most 2% investigative. They need to model themselves after NFL scouts, who somehow are able to find out every last thing about a prospect and are extremely accurate in predicting behavior. All the scouts said stay away from Aaron Hernandez. When Belichick and the Pats thought they could tame him, other team’s scouts said don’t do it, the guy is trouble. And low and behold the scouts were right, Hernandez had the second worst dropped passes rate in the NFL in 2012 (16.39%).

  28. Avatar

    Everyone is getting hung up on the title “contractor”. I heard Hagel even commented today to look into the access of contractors on DOD installations. EVERYONE is handled the same way for each level of clearance. This is not a contractor problem. I keep a top ten list of crazy cases I have completed in my almost 10 years of doing this job, and at least 4 out of the top 5 are either gov or military. Also, care to guess how many I have then seen on the job years after our interview and how many were promoted?

  29. Avatar

    Saw an article this morning about how the Providence, RI police contacted the navy to warn them about the crazy guy. Navy didn’t bother following up. Problem is that there is no reporting agency for members of the public to report issues with security clearance holders.

    A neighbor of mine went nuts a few years ago and started stalking and harassing his ex-wife. Held a secret clearance. Was ultimately convicted of stalking, trespassing and destruction of property. Another neighbor tracked down the number to his security office to advise them. They liiterally could have cared less and wouldn’t even take the guys name down… This is one of those very small federal agencies that aren’t too attuned to security issues. Guess this info will come up in 2019 when his secret clearance investigation is redone…

    So even if the public has knowledge of important information, there is nowhere for them to report their information.

  30. Avatar


    Just read that article. Waste of paper. Common sense would say that the powers that be should talk to people who actually DO this job to see what all the issues are. I do my job well, with integrity, and I perform the tasks as dictated by the requirements of OPM for the cases I am assigned. That being said, the whole process is ridiculous…

  31. Avatar

    I love the comments on that WP article. Everyone knows that the current BI process is a joke and having it privatized only makes it more so. Jaime Gracia’s comment was spot on. That case he referenced and the link was interesting. Did the guy get arrested for lying about his close foreign ties?! (rhetorical question). Gracia’s comment in part:

    “Why did Alexis have a security clearance? Because the security clearance process is a joke, outsourced to contractors who push paper. I know of an individual who was recently stripped of his security clearance, only through the dedication and courage of an FSO who did what was needed in the face of retaliation and intimidation.

    The initial OPM investigator assigned the case was inexperienced and poorly trained, yet assigned to “investigate” a TS/SCI clearance renewal. Without any due diligence, he went office cube to office cube, and that was good enough for him to sign off on the clearance…”

    Hey, that’s unfair, Gracia. The investigator also had to interview friends and references provided by the Subject! And each one of them would have been pinned down, looked in the eye, and forced to answer such penetrating questions like, “Has the Subject been involved in any acts of activities to overthrow the a United States Government by force.” No playing around, Johnson!

    I got a kick out of Rockvillers comment:

    “How about checking if all applicants really have that PHDs?? Dissertations listed at can be used by USIS and DSS investigators…”

    Obviously referring to the 26-year old women who lied about having a Ph.D. whom our Sec of State et al. referenced in trying to start a war. Ummm, good idea, Rockvillers, but OPM investigators are strictly prohibited from googling a Subject and doing web searches on them.

    To Gracia, Rockvillers, et al., believe me when I tell you it is even worse than the joke you guys perceive it to be.

  32. Avatar

    We do go cubicle to cubcile, we talk to coworkers and supervisors all the time. I’m can talk to anyone and everyone I want to. I don’t get the complaint.

    Also we interview develeoped sources, not just Subject’s listed references.

    For those who keep saying the system is broken, how would you fix it? Are you saying that you don’t want employment sources interviewed? You don’t want to be required to devloped social? I don’t understand what you want.

    I’ve never heard of any OPM restrictions on google or any other database. You can’t use them for official reporting but all is fair game in collecting information.

    I do agree that a lot can be done to fix the system, the minor administrative corrections and the ridiculous deadlines are two right off the top of my head.

  33. Avatar

    I think one way to improve the situation would be to remove these ridiculous ACD dates. On average it’s a 5 day turn around after you subtract the day of assignment and weekend. I am not saying we go back to the days when we took a year to complete an investigation, but at least give us some breathing room to follow up on a gut feeling and properly work the case. Process has been reduced to a numbers game and lost sight of the true reason we do this job. We are working at a pace that is unsustainable and investigators are burned out, but when this is brought to management the response is ” well the company is making a profit” really!?

  34. Avatar


    Can’t put PII in google. So no google searches…

    How to fix the problem?

    Eliminate the privacy act requirement for one. Allow the sources to speak freely without fear of retribution by the subject.

    Actually prosecute subjects for falsifying their case papers and/or lying during the process. Investigators get prosecuted all the time (and rightfully so) but subjects should also be subject to potentially criminal charges.

    Ask pertinent questions to sources. There is one OPM compliant contract I work where sources are actually asked important information. And sources covering different items are asked different questions relating to their knowledge of the subject.

    Review subjects social media presence.

    Stop exempting certain corcumstances from mental health reporting requirements. Go back to actually interviewing mental health providers instead of asking them three questions..,

  35. Avatar

    Agreed Contractor,

    Who determines what are pertinent questions? You don’t want to ask all the general sweeping stuff but we all know issues are developed from those questions. Limiting questioning to just known issues will never be a good thing. There is also little restriction she. Questioning sources about issues, I don’t see the problem in the questions themselves I guess.

    I think you are incorrect about Google, you have always been able to throw in a name for location purposes. Of course no dob or SSN but that would seem like common sense.

    I think one of the big problems is that lack of uniformity in policy and communicating clear policy to the field.

  36. Avatar

    No it’s not good. That being said as we all know WE do NOT adjudicate cases! I am not the biggest cheerleader for USIS, but I don’t think they are getting a fair shake on this. They will of course be the scapegoat.

  37. Avatar

    Another good article. Fed asked, “For those who keep saying the system is broken, how would you fix it?”

    The decision to outsource BI’s for national security positions ranks up there with Napoleon’s decision to invade Russia or Decca Records deciding not to sign a new band called The Beatles. But now the private contracting business is a multi-billion industry with boards of directors who were former top Fed officials (including the former Sec’y of DHS), so I’m not sure how realistic is it to propose in-sourcing BI’s. But they could in-source BI’s, hire a lot of the contractors as Feds, and have them trained by the FBI at Quantico to ask open-ended and investigative questions. And you would probably save money. Yeah, Merton Miller couldn’t use timeliness as evidence of what a good job he is doing, but of course timeliness is relative anyway. Deadlines should be scrapped right away.

    For every source interview at employments, residences, education, etc., two investigators must be involved. Switch paring every 3-6 months. This largely eliminates fabrication concerns and burdensome administrative QC needed to re-check up on 3% (Fed) and 6% contractors (3% Fed and 3% contractor QC).

    Scrap the Privacy Act for national security investigations. Corner a coworker in the cafeteria or parking lot and take them aside to ask a few minutes of questions. Not fifteen minutes to ascertain that they live at 123 Maple Street, they are married to Betty, they have two kids, they went to George Mason, they work at some government contractor, they don’t use drugs, they haven’t attempted to overthrow the U.S. Government by force, etc., etc. And the investigative reports should include only what is the case and derogatory information relevant to his/her character.

    Allow investigators to wear less-conspicuous clothing. The suit and tie makes the investigator looked buffoonish nowadays in environments that are 98% causal. New uniform is khakis and golf shirt. With two investigators, gold badges, and SA titles they will not need to pretend to appear official.

    Pull FIS out of OPM. No one knows what OPM is and no one can make the connection between some HR-sounding entity and national security. Make FIS an autonomous agency under DHS.

    I could go on, but I think what I’ve suggested is the key stuff for starters.

  38. Avatar

    I like it Darrow!

    The Privacy Act is like a weight tied around your neck while trying to swim upstream.

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    Not sure I agree with the casual look though. I think you would get a lot less cooperation from employers if you walked in wearing casual dress.

    The two investigators idea is interesting but who gets to type it up? hahahaha

  40. Avatar

    Not sure I agree with the casual look though. I think you would get a lot less cooperation from employers if you walked in wearing casual dress.

    Use your discretion. Personally I think a navy polo with an FIS insignia and khaki cargo pants would be more appropriate in many circumstances in field work. I know if I saw two guys with button-downs and ties heading for me I’d be ducking out of sight quickly to avoid having to be polite to some Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons.

    The two investigators idea is interesting but who gets to type it up?

    That’s just it, completely overhaul what is reported. Just report worthwhile information that is derogatory and goes to the Subject’s character. Not worthless minutiae that makes of 98% of all reports. I can remember having to spend hours on timelines and reports on Subject’s in the NG with 15 employments (some of it concurrent temp/PT stuff), TDY’s, deployments, online EDUC, etc. And half the time it was on a PR and was covered in the previous investigation (what’s the word for doubly worthless?).

    Going into SPIN on Aaron Alexis, the investigator was no doubt already preoccupied with making the multi-state RESIs, EMPLs, et al., make sense. That’s going to be a big part of the interview because that is going to be a big part of the report. Minutiae.

    Inv: Look buddy, I couldn’t care less about those microwave vibrations and talking ceilings. And even if did I don’t know how to issue code it. But you might interest me in that talking ceiling if it told you how we can make this timeline on your case papers work and save me a few hours of unnecessary typing.

  41. Avatar

    Sorry to say–you can’t fix what cannot be fixed. There will never be a good fool-proof way to do these background checks in such large numbers. I think the fix lies in the govt reeling-in some of these post 9/11 clearances that are no longer needed. Shrink the pool and, eliminate the 24 month “Pumpkin Status.” Once gone from a cleared job, re-do the check.

  42. Avatar

    Darrow, couldn’t agree more about the reporting, it’s outrageous. But i do have to say, I look pretty kick-ass in a suit. 🙂

    BW- Agreed as well. I wonder what will come of all this.

    As an aside, wouldn’t Alexis have access to the Naval Yard anyway without a clearance? I don’t see too many people making that point.

  43. Avatar

    Yes, Alexis would probably have had clearance to enter base anyway. We have a huge navy facility here which merged with our Air Force base about 3 years ago. Interesting fact was due to the merger lots of low grade access contractors had access pulled due to no longer meeting the criteria for access the joint base by Air Force standards. Nightmare for us cause all of them now had to have SPINs, but funny how these individuals could meet criteria for one base nd not the other. Especially since our navy facility had many more sensitive areas.

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    Exactly. What about people like food service workers, maintenance, cleaners, janitors?

    And I have to agree with everyone about the reporting.

  45. Avatar


    I see a lot of heads rolling to at least give the appearance something is being done. If I were the DNI, I’d be calling for a special session of about 500 investigators from all agencies involved and hash this thing out regardless of time involved. There are a lot of FI’s with bright minds in both the FEDS and CONT world. Fix it by getting to the source of the work is the only way. If we keep having administrators write guidance, we will just spin our wheels.

    T.W. correct. Anyone fired is supposed to be escorted and all credentials taken away that day. Had the personnel staff done their job, it wouldn’t have happened there. Sadly though, I bet it would have happened somewhere regardless–no doubt this guy had troubles.

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    John Hamre: Security clearance shouldn’t be for life
    By John Hamre, Special to The Washington Post
    Posted September 22, 2013

    Hamre is a former deputy secretary of defense, chairman of the Defense Policy Board, and is president and chief executive of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He wrote this column for The Washington Post.

    Hamre gets a lot of it right, but tends to be, IMO (educated opinion), a little charitable and diplomatic. He sums up the idiocy of the process accurately (though of course it is worse than he describes).

  47. Avatar

    Just so we’re clear, that’s also the same John Hamre that bragged in the Post about being an a-hole to his investigator during his most recent ESI.

  48. Avatar

    Just so we’re clear, that’s also the same John Hamre that bragged in the Post about being an a-hole to his investigator during his most recent ESI.

    Yes, the same one. But I wouldn’t call him an a-hole for being pissed off about having to sit down for a Subj interview and taking up a couple hours of his time reading back what he put down into the SF-86. Really? This counts for a national security investigation?!

    Subject: “Wait, read that address back to me once again.”

    Inv: “You listed your address from July 2010 to January 2012 as 288 King Street, Unit 4, Alexandria Virginia.”

    Subject: “Haha [nervous laughter], I’m so sorry, I mistakenly listed the address of my Chinese lover. And what did I list prior to this?”

    Inv: “From March 2008 to June 2010 you listed 5522 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C.”

    Subject: “Oh no, I’m so embarrassed, I got it all messed up. I’m sorry. The Wisconsin Avenue address is my Chinese lover and the King Street address is the Russian safe house.”

    Inv: “Haha… yeah, we all make mistakes. Now you listed your Selective Service number as 982345725…”

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    I’ll be honest, Darrow. You’re bitterness toward the jobs wears me out. Your criticisms are valid, and a lot of your ideas for change make sense to me, but I’ve still got to do this job every day. I know the problems with the system as well as anyone. I investigate things to the best of my ability and cover the issues as well and as thoroughly as I can within the system that exists. It’s probably because this job seems to be particularly stressful and frustrating over the last few months for myself personally, but I get really tired of reading your bashing of things over and over and over and over. You’ve got a new job/career. Congrats. I hope to make a change myself sometime not to far in the future. But how bitter do you have to be to still come back and go on and on about things?

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    Hamre–jobs shouldn’t be for life either. We have too many govt employees that have long passed retirement age. Move them along and make way for some new talent.

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    I have only come back twice, and only after this issue was first and foremost in the national news and the talked about on the Sunday shows. I know a little something about it so it interests me. I don’t mean to get you down. That would be the last thing I would want to do. I know you and the others do an important job and 95% of the contractors (and Feds) are hard-working, high-caliber people. It amazes with the nature of the job it can still attract excellent people. Though I’m afraid it might not continue to do so.

    A big part of the reason I highlight some of the idiocy/nonsense of the current BI process is because I know that a lot of people (especially their researchers), who are in positions to influence things, read this forum. I have attempted to depict the process in a satirical, humorous way, but always accurately.

    Late last week the Sec’y of Defense and top senators on the Armed Services Cmte, et al., said a complete review and overhaul of the security clearance investigation process is priority one. Big changes are coming. Now, you know there will be reporters and researchers scouring any and all sources to get an accurate picture of what is really going on. It is my hope that my comments and posts can, in some small way, educate some of these people about the true nature of BI’s for security clearances.

    Or should it be left to bureaucrats at OPM-FIS who testify to Congress that all is well and when questioned about quality refer to timeliness as evidence of that. They might as well have the following quote chiseled in the entrance of FIS headquarters: “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”– Joseph Stalin.

    Take heart VSI. From all I read big changes are coming to the security clearance BI process. Be prepared for your job and life to get a whole lot better.

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    Btw, sorry for punctuation/grammatical errors. There isn’t an edit function and I don’t proof before I submit.

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    Your quality is now 95 percent and you are a sucky investigator

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    I’m sorry Darrow but I have to RZ your last post.


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    I hope that changes are coming. But most importantly, that positive and worthwhile changes are coming. Not just band-aids. Because we could all use something to make our lives better.

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    Now it’s being reported that the USIS investigator whitewashed the background check.

    Here we go.

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    Fed Inv – where did you read that?

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    It’s here:

    The article confirms what I believe many of us have suspected about the Seattle incident, and that is whether it triggered a SPIN. The article all but confirms he went through a SPIN. It even has portions of the ROI which the article refers to as a ‘memo.’

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    “Does profit motive affect security clearance investigations?”

    [nb: I did this job for a contractor for years. I never got the slightest hint that it was about anything other than profit motive.]

    Here’s a good article from the WP on contract investigators pressured to do more:

    These investigations need to be in-sourced and two investigators assigned to [i]every[/i] source and Subject. This is a no-brainer.

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    I replied but it says my comment is awaiting moderation.

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    So was it a SPIN or part of the initial investigation? When was the Seattle PD check done in relation to the interview?

    NAVY is saying they weren’t aware of the gun used in the arrest, so was the record not reported in full or did Seattle PD not provide everything to the investigator?

    I would like to know these answers before saying the investigator whitewashed anything.

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    The article says his financial issues were ‘dismissed’ because he was making payments, that’s not being dismissed. Also they say the interview was triggerd from the arrest, how do they know the financial didn’t trigger the interview? There is nothing to show the investigator knew about the Seattle arrest other than what Alexis told him. The confrontation policy wasn’t in place at the time, I wonder if that played a part in any way?

    Again I go back to Navy claiming they didn’t know about the gun used in the Seattle incident but they knew about his firing a gun in his apartment? How does that work? Was he living on base at the time? If not, how were they notified of that incident?

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    Can anyone remember if we were still doing handwritten affidavits back then? Maybe Alexis had a copy of it or had requested a copy of his investigation. Very concerning that they have a copy of the ROI. Did everyone read the comments to the article? Again, we are perceived as ignorant when the general public has no idea of the investigative process as a whole.

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    Fed Inv – I read the articles you refer to and nowhere does it say the USIS investigator whitewashed the background check but puts the blame on the Feds.The article refers to the OPM report but does not say if the statements about deflating the tires were from a SPIN where the FI can only report what the subject told him or the police report. To say that the USIS investigator whitewashed the background check implies that he/she alone was at fault and is blatantly unfair and misleading.

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    NY Inv,

    The articles and news media stories have placed the blame on USIS, do you think OPM changed the content of the report?

    And for the record, I’m on your side, I don’t think the investigator should be blamed without knowing what the investigator knew at the time, that’s why I asked the questions I did.

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    one article I read said the Seattle police did not give opm the police report. Opm went to the court to get it and the court records confirmed what Alexis said. The investigator did not know a gun was involved. Also there is some question as to who did the spin, USIS or OPM. In 2007 OPM did more of the spins. I do not where this ends, but changes are coming. I would not be surprised if DOD takes back investigations.

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    This article says the Seattle Police did not provide details of the arrest to OPM. Interesting.

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    This article says a court records check had no mention of firearms.

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    Honestly, the way to fix the problem is this:

    The subject is given at least two chances to disclosed derogatory information (once when they fill out the case papers, another when they go through the interview). If they need to be confronted on any issues of adjudicative value, after giving them a chance during the interview to disclose, their clearance should be denied. Period. They have multiple opportunities to disclose issues and when they don’t that should be automatic grounds. But we all know that almost all investigations result in access.

    Supplemental SPINS? Now they have THREE times to disclose the info…

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    I’m betting the blame does not lie with OPM or USIS. My guess is DONCAF adjudicated the case even with the incidents. I guess we will see. Let’s not forget OPM and Contractors simply report.

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    We give the subject way too many opportunities and they know it…..especially people that have been through it numerous times. Subjects still do not read the instruction and fill out the paperwork incorrectly. Half the interview we are fixing employment/ residential dates. The other half goes to unemployment questions on kids in high school.

    The entire system needed a revamp 5 years ago. It was only a matter of time before a snowden or navy yard shooter opened the can of worms….

    Snowden may not have set off any red flags but the navy yard shooter should never had been able to keep his clearance…

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    Senate hearing Tuesday, OPM Director Kaplan slated to testify.

    Should be interesting.

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    Fed: Seattle PD and Kings County SO charge for name checks and OPM (and previously DSS) refused to pay. In such cases investigators search court indices instead. You’d think that once they got a hit at the court, they’d pay for the police report, but apparently not.

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    I’d more like to think the police agencies would cooperate but I guess not as well.

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    One problem is that many PD will not cooperate because OPM and especially contractor investigators are not law enforcement. Had a Fed LEO requested the file, I’m sure Seattle PD would have produced the report. However, giving OPM agents LEO status is not the answer but subpoena or civil enforcement power would certainly help.

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    Agreed with the subpoena power but I think they would need more attorneys.

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    There was a federal law enacted more than a decade ago requiring local law enforcement agencies to provide arrest reports to federal investigators conducting security clearance investigations. I think it was called the Security Clearance Act. Unfortunately the law permitted police departments to charge a fee for this. Further complicating the issue was the distinction between employment investigations and security clearance investigations conducted by a federal agency.

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    On November 21, 2006, the United States filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) asserting federal law (specifically, 5 U.S.C. § 9101) requires Defendants to disclose an individual’s complete criminal history record information (“CHRI”) to OPM and its contract investigators conducting background investigations for employment, contracting and security clearance purposes. The case was United States v. The State of California. It was filed in the Eastern District of California under Docket #2:06-cv-2649-GEB-GGH.

    It makes for interesting reading on the government’s reaction to a state’s attempt to deny access to an individual’s criminal record because they are a contract investigator.

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    Ironic that the suit was filed in California considering the CHP doesn’t enjoy cooperating with OPM contract investigators.

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    Don’t feel bad, CHP doesn’t cooperate with the feds either.

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    I think the Cop cooperation is relative where you worked. I’m in the Midwest and do not have any problems getting what I need. Now, head to the coasts, VA and a few other large cities and nothing. We are just much nicer here in the middle of the country.

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    DC Police is fun. You’ll get the record but it’s not pleasant…

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    Well, looks like work is drying up fast.

    Won’t be long now.

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    We’ve been told the same thing. My company is saying TDY’s can be available if need be, followed then by cutting work hours and then furloughs. Spoke to my direct supervisor who hinted furloughs for us and for him.

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    Fed side is looking the same.


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    “In 2009, his supervisor wrote a derogatory report in his personnel file, noting a distinct change in the young man’s behavior and work habits, as well as a troubling suspicion… Snowden was trying to break into classified computer files to which he was not authorized to have access.”

    I know how this works. His coworkers, to include the supervisor who wrote the derogatory report, said he was a great guy and didn’t volunteer any adverse or derogatory information info about.

    When I did this job I quickly realized two things. Personal sources are worthless (especially in this day and age). Any derogatory information will be found in files. I’m not sure that the elimination of the PA would change this. When I worked in the federal government I knew a lot of guys with TS-SCI clearance who were cheating on their wives and/or getting drunk on a regular basis (sometimes while technically still on the job). No OPM investigator ever talked with me and if they did, I’m not sure I’d how I’d couch it if I did volunteer it. I sure as hell would have never volunteered this to some 20-something secretarial private contract investigator working for some private equity-owned company. Please.

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    To follow up on my last comment. If I had any suspicion of questionable activities or behavior among my colleagues or sups of a national security nature (e.g. having a Russian or Chinese paramour) I would have notified the FBI. Not volunteer this to some OPM contract investigator.

    Bottomline: eliminate personal sources and focus on obtaining the full records and scour them. Go over records like a rabbinical student going over the Torah.

    BI’s in this day and age need to be reduced to thorough record checks and Subject interviews. That’s it, unless there is no record and then just try to get a personal or two and ask them a few encompassing questions and follow up if some adverse info volunteered.

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    I’m glad to see the wheels finally come off in hopes that meaningful reform will follow. The BI process is and has largely been ineffectual for the multiplicity of reasons already stated. Let me tell you, as a taxpayer and contract investigator of more than a dozen years, I am indignant. And I’m directing my angst right now on control and review staff in our organization, mainly because they are in a front line position to push back against OPM policies and procedures creating the conditions. Admittedly, they largely lack the will and motivation to do so. Last week, I went ten rounds with an arrogant reviewer who rz’d a case for purported formatting issues and lack of social source disclaimers. Well, the facts are that the reviewer had obviously only skimmed the report, looking for certain key words, and when she didn’t find them, reflexively hit the RZ button and, bam, I spent the next 20 minutes on the phone raining down a year’s worth of accumulated wrath for the frequency with which this BS is happening. Never mind my report was fully compliant and the reviewer was simply stressed to meet her own set of metrics. It’s absolutely ridiculous. We are straining gnats and swallowing camels under the guise of ‘protecting national security.’ When the mechanics of reporting take on more importance than the substance, we are in trouble. I and many colleagues I know have wasted far too much time responding to ‘fixes’ that have NOTHING to do of adjudicative concern–all the while matters of a subject’s mental health, for example, are glossed over. This is nothing short of madness, dangerous to national security and a waste of taxpayers resources. It’s time to get serious about reforming the process before more lives are lost to malfactors who triumphed over a tepid, broken system.

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    GumShoe – maximum dittos
    I have been doing this full time for over 4 years after 32 years in LE as a criminal investigator. The biggest challenge was to dumb down my reporting so that a reviewer could understand. I got a RZ because I did not explain what DOB means. The system is flawed but Congress will only focus on the contractor companies not the Feds that set the standards for the process. Reviewers are under pressure but it is to meet OPM reporting standards and not meaningful content. Congress created these unintentional consequences when the forced unreasonable timelines without providing the manpower.
    I hope there are cooler heads that will examine the entire process and make sweeping changes. I also am hoping for a 67 Vette convertible for Christmas.

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    Contract investigator here from one of the three. We are currently being directed to take time off due to decreased work. This is the third week in a row. Is work picking up for you all?