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Too much insecurity, too many security background inquiries

Although I’ve lived in the metro DC area for eight years, I haven’t ever heard of “The Examiner.” A writer by the name of Melanie Scarborough misses the mark in a new article titled “Too much insecurity, too many security background inquiries.” Her somewhat weakly presented point, is that many government workers that undergo a background investigation shouldn’t need one. Furthermore, she seems to believe that background investigations are a waste of taxpayer money, and that uncovered information shouldn’t necessarily reflect on the person being investigated. She states:

“If a criminal record is uncovered that’s irrelevant to the job, does that disqualify a candidate? It would be difficult to make the case that a drunk-driving conviction renders someone unqualified to sort mail.”

Not unqualified physically, but perhaps unqualified if the mail is going to government officials or employees. Remember the anthrax letter scares or recent times, or was that not worth considering? The fact is this: A background investigation is conducted to help judge a person’s character. Someone that thinks so little of themselves and the law by getting a DUI, may not be the best person to be working in a government office where some information in the office should be safeguarded. Another good quote:

“The assumption that people who’ve passed background checks should be considered trustworthy and those who haven’t should be considered suspect is demonstrably specious. Millions of people in the private sector keep secrets every day.”

Actually, a large majority of employers these days conduct background investigations on new employees. Granted, they aren’t at the same level of a Federal security clearance investigation. But, Ms. Scarborough is daydreaming if she thinks that a large portion of private sector workers aren’t checked out. There are literally thousands of companies and web-based services that perform background checks on potential hires. Its one of the fastest growing segments of human resources.

The writer’s main points seem to be that background checks are “invasive”, expensive, and often unnecessary. Invasive they are, but for good reason. If someone doesn’t want to be subject to a background investigation, then find a job elsewhere. The expense is one as a taxpayer I’m willing to shoulder. In today’s post 9-11 world, where security is tantamount, we can’t ever be complacent.

Comment Archive

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    She makes some very good points. The government wastes so much hard earned taxpayers money on security clearances and many other things. Everyone has made mistakes, many of us have made mistakes while being teenagers, young adults. Small mistakes such as speeding, having a drink and driving (dumb, but most people have drink and drive or broke a law by speeding etc.sometime in their life.) It will almost impossible to find a flawless person, we are humans !!! Life is a learning experience, and we getting wiser as we age.

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    They are not looking for a flawless person. i agree, that is impossible. They are looking for people with ethics and the ability to accept responsibility and have proven that a small mistake in the past is not occuring annually.

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    Perhaps the following will be of interest to you.

    A background investigation is designed to uncover a person’s problems with, among other issues, alcohol, other drugs, finances, foreign travel, foreign contacts, criminal record, and more.

    Adjudicative guidelines (unlike media opinions) take certain elements into account when reviewing incidents. These are called mitigating factors, and include, but are not limited to recency and duration of behavior.

    Thus, one conviction for DUI or drug possession several years ago would not, per se, rule out issuance of a clearance. On the other hand, demonstration of continued alcohol or drug abuse would call into question the person’s trustworthiness and judgment. Likewise, a conviction for trespassing as a teenager would not rule out a clearance for a 30-year-old. However, multiple felony convictions would cause most adjudicators to rule against issuance of a clearance, because the person is simply not reliable or trustworthy.

    The system has been in place for a long time, and it works well. If you want to criticize it, start with the facts, and be constructive and realistic.

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    A note on background checks:

    Our society isn’t forgiving of our past transgressions in life. For example, I have a 31 year-old felony conviction for unarmed bank robbery (passing a note over the counter) and have never gained employment by being honest. Fortunately for me, many background checks doesn’t reveal this information.

    If life is virtuous and society forgiving, then someone should take note of the fact that some of us has gone on to live respectable and productive lives. Paying our debt to society is not incarceration –society seeks punishment over rehabilitation– but the constant pain of wanting to be ethical and truthful but is afraid of rejection.