Background Investigations

Security Clearances as Reference Checks

The Justice Department came under fire earlier this year for failing to check references for law enforcement hires. A report released by the agency’s inspector general found that background checks and security clearance investigations were considered by some to be a replacement for standard workplace reference checks.

Job seekers often mistake an agency’s employment suitability process for the security clearance process. It’s no surprise that hiring managers, especially in federal offices facing staffing shortages, would look for opportunities to shorten what can often be a lengthy government hiring process. But whether or not a security clearance could replace reference checks depends upon what a reference check is used for. Although it can be argued whether or not a security clearance establishes character, it should establish a baseline of credibility an trustworthiness. What it doesn’t determine, as the Justice Department IG report notes, is competence and qualifications for a specific position.

Read more here.

Comment Archive

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    Wonder when this guy’s last PR was….

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    But we conduct suitability and security investigations, right?

    Seems like a great use of resources by the company to use the background investigation to replace their own.

    I just don’t see the problem.

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    Wonder when this guy’s last PR was….

    I wonder why the FBI doesn’t run undercover sting-entrapment operations against 50-something white guy engineers with security clearances like they do with 20-something Muslims with testosterone-fueled zealotry. The FBI could use Asian women operatives to try and get classified national security info out of these middle-aged nerds. Then charge them with conspiracy to commit espionage.

    How many of these guys do you think they could roll up in a week? MSNBC could have a show, “To Catch a Traitor”.

    Chris Hanson: “What were you thinking?”

    Overweight bespectacled 55-year old nerd: “I thought she was a Norwegian-American from Minnesota.”

    Chris Hanson: “We’ll, let me read what you said to her in an email, quote, ‘Maybe when I flee to your ancestreal homeland we can get married on the banks of the Yangtze River,’ unquote. That is a camera and I’m Chris Hanson from Dateline NBC. What do you have to say for yourself?”

    Overweight bespectacled 55-year old nerd [averting his eyes]: “I dunno. I guess I’m not good with geography.”

    Chris Hanson: “Not…good…with…geography [shaking head]. Well, if there’s nothing more you want to say to me some FBI agents are waiting for you outside. They’re ready to take you down. Take you down to Chinatown… pun intended.”

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    Btw, does anyone really believe that the way BI’s for a security clearance are done now that there is any chance that guy would have been found out? Best case scenario this talkative neighbor gets an OPM door hanger and the investigator didn’t find two other neighbors when he or she was out there. So the investigator meets the talkative neighbor and shows him his or her credentials with “Contractor” in 18-point font in 3 places. Then reads him the Privacy Act. After the PA do you think the talkative neighbor will be as forthcoming as he is with the press? And even if the talkative neighbor gives you this testimony, do you think review and adjudication will make something of this info. I have sent off reports were I thought, “Oh man, they are going to want more info and follow up on this tangential reference to a suspicious foreign national sometime-girlfriend.” Only to have a follow up from a reviewer asking me if a reference was able to verify the Subject’s period of unemployment for 3 months in 2007 while he was a full-time student at Virginia Tech. But alas, the investigation process is now much more thorough because we no longer can collateral sources on items and double the amount of Subject/Subject-friend-provided leads/sources. That’ll catch those potential Benjamin Bishops!

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    Darrow – I lost it at “I guess I’m bad at geography.” Outstanding.

    Short of him listing her on his case papers, I don’t see how any BI would have uncovered this. Even if he HAD listed her, the fact that he admitted the contact would probably have mitigated the risk in reviews opinion. A CI poly (surely he had one, right?) would seem to the be best bet to catch something like this without someone else turning him in. It will be interesting to see when the relationship began, when the illegal activity began, and when his most recent BI and poly were.

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    Is there really even a such thing as “Nuke” Secrets anymore? He probably told her what the Chinese and Russians have known for years under treaty. Hell, we have so-called foreign dignitaries in our sensitive facilities all year or so-called dignitaries, which I’m sure are CI Agents. I think this country is literally falling apart at the seams and our culture is no longer one who gives a shxx about anything.

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    In the words of the great philosopher, D. Tosh–Na, Na, Na Boo Boo, stick your head in Doo Doo.

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    Darrow, that was awesome.

    BW, your post made me sad. I still give a shit.

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    You are my new hero.

    Seriously, I have had this come up a few times over the years. Middle age man going through a mid-life crisis meets attentive foreign woman who he drops everything for. Leaves wife and family and starts new life with foreign national. “Forgets” to report this information to his security office. And the reviewer only wants to know why his dates of employment overlap from jobs he had eight years ago…

    I know there are a lot of people who don’t see how adultery can be a security issue. The issue is the betrayel of trust… If someone is willing to betray their spouse/ family, they are CERTAINLY capable of betraying the United States.

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    Point I was trying to make earlier. Adultery and trust issues is just the norm anymore. People seem to view it as it’s normal these days, so who cares–everbody does it.

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    I know there are a lot of people who don’t see how adultery can be a security issue. The issue is the betrayel of trust… If someone is willing to betray their spouse/ family, they are CERTAINLY capable of betraying the United States..

    And of course, God.

    In my opinion adultery should have the same issue code as the one for repeated pattern of espionage and treason.

    I think issue codes need to be scrapped I get Subjects who not only have issues but full subscriptions. I call in to the investigator help line to find out how to issue code certain perversions only to be told, “We don’t issue code that.” Exqueeze me? A baking powder? But I’d better make sure to not only issue code the $15 medical collection but resolve that it is not related to alcohol or gambling and he could never be blackmailed over this paid debt.

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    I think this country is literally falling apart at the seams and our culture is no longer one who gives a shxx about anything.

    That is one of the distressing parts of this job. We get a unique perspective on what is going on in this country. We get sober glimpses into the workplace and the economy, higher education, neighborhoods, social relationships, et al. If you’re a person who is reflective and holds values and principles that most Americans held for most of our history it can all be very vexing.

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    But from a CI standpoint, shouldn’t an extra-marital affiar with a foreign national be a major, major issue, regardless of how affairs in general are considered from a security/adjudication standpoint? I mean, the foreign honeypot is basically right out of CI 101 is it not?

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    But from a CI standpoint, shouldn’t an extra-marital affiar with a foreign national be a major, major issue, regardless of how affairs in general are considered from a security/adjudication standpoint? I mean, the foreign honeypot is basically right out of CI 101 is it not?

    In my experience we are getting to the point where someone’s citizenship is a grey area and this country is becoming very multicultural. I have a lot of Subjects with dual citizenship and military clearances with foreign citizenship.. When I interview sources I get the sense that they– even out of some PC reflex– assume anyone living in the U.S. is an American. It is my impression that terms such as “foreign national” or even “non-U.S. citizen” strikes them as exclusionary and not socially and politically acceptable. Kind of like the term “illegal alien” is now becoming. When I have asked sources about a girlfriend’s citizenship whom I know is not a U.S. citizen (and it is an easy call) I am often told, “I don’t know, I didn’t ask. I assume American.”

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    Very Special,

    Dead on–having worked CI, these types of relationships are a huge starting point for such activities. Expose the subj’s weakness and exploit it. It doesn’t even need to be with a foreign national to be dangerous. Besides, more times than not, a subj would probably cave to pressures of the spouse finding out.

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    You should see the slew of Afghan translator cases I’ve done over the last few years.

    Talk about foreign preference and influence being in a grey area.

    Holy cow.

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    More than I can remember since about 2007–both fronts–my gut and my experience in SW Asia and ME told me we are not doing this the right way.

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    Also did you notice how they also segregate themselves away from the outside world and only associate with their own.

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    Yeah. Very rare to interview a non-family member reference. Forget about a non-Afghan refe.

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    Not to mention the multiple off the books ’employments.’ Oy.

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    I wish we could know if the work we do has any bearing on the adjudication. I had a military captain who not only had multiple extramarital affairs but brought a foreign national prostitute to staff meetings he ran while on assignment overseas. He was discharged with the promise never to join the military again. Somehow he rejoined and was getting a TS. I bet his new unit never new about what he did before but it was confirmed by two former full bird colonels and his ex-wife.
    Does infidelity have a bearing – absolutely. I may be just the tip of the iceberg to what else someone may be hiding.

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    NY Inv

    I wish we could know if the work we do has any bearing on the adjudication..

    I hope this is a rhetorical question NY Inv. If you haven’t done this job long be prepared to run into the same cocky special agent, commander, whatever, in the secure command center who was involved in some serious malfeasance that they didn’t tell you about in the ESI. Be prepared to run into that same dual citizen scientist who told you they will not surrender their foreign citizenship (from a friendly Middle East country) as a condition of access. You need to compartmentalize in this job and not even think about adjudication.

    Getting back to the Subject of this thread, security clearances as reference checks, I have little faith that clearance investigation process and less so in the adjudications process. I would have infinitely more confidence in a private company screening for an executive position. The reports for backgrounds on exec positions at Wall Street firms have ten-page reports without disclaimers. They are involved in serious business and don’t have the time or lack of serious for reports composed of correcting minutiae on applications and endless disclaimers as to what is not the case.

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    I got another job three weeks in sales so I am no longer an investigator. Good luck to everyone on this forum.

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    And just like that, as mysteriously as he had arrived, he was gone.

    Good luck with your future endeavors, Darrow.

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    Via con Dies, Darrow.

    Are you starting in three weeks? What are you selling?

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    Dios, stupid auto-correct.

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    I’m not far behind you. I am opening my own business soon. Good luck and be careful on them street corners during night hours 🙂

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    Periodic Reinvestigations

    (3/25/13) Guidance on submitting periodic reinvestigation
    Effective April 1, 2013, the Defense Security Service (DSS), Personnel Security Management Office for Industry (PSMO-I) will only accept requests for Periodic Reinvestigations (PR) that are within 30 days of the investigation anniversary date. This is a change from the previous three-month (90 day) timeframe, and is consistent with changes in the DoD budget. Based on FY13 Personnel Security Investigation-Industry (PSI-I) requirement projections, sequestration is expected to pose a significant challenge to PSI funding. Moreover, under current policy governing funding for personnel clearances, DSS may be required to stop processing Top Secret Periodic Reinvestigations. If and when the decision is made, DSS will inform the community. Periodic Reinvestigation requests already initiated prior to April 1 will continue to be processed as appropriate.

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    I envy you guys who are leaving. I am trying to head back to school to get an I.T. Security Certificate so I can get the hell out of dodge too!

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    Saw that memo on the DSS website, not to surprised to be honest. I think it is a only a matter of time before TS PRs get suspended at this point. Then I will get to argue with site security about why a bunch of our personnel have investigations that are out of scope, will be great fun.

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    Started 3 weeks ago. Medical/healthcare-related. My hope is to become an entrepreneur and live my dreams. To quote Andy Dufresne from Shawshank Redemption, “You can get busy living, or you can get busy dying.” I’m choosing the former.

    One thing I realized when working the investigator job, and it kept me going, was that every job after it would be a piece of cake. It is a gruesome grind of a job and I have amazing respect for the investigators who can stick it out. Without a doubt, the sine qua non of security clearance investigations is the investigator. And from the federal side to the contractor side I was always amazed at the quality of the investigator this field could still bring in. I hope OPM realizes this and works to streamline and update the investigation process so this field doesn’t hemorrhage quality investigators. It is only through quality investigators that the national security can be maintained.

    Au revoir and Godspeed.

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    Good luck in your new endeavor! Check in on us from time to time…