What is an "Inherently Governmental" Function?
This week there was a flap over some contractor employees at the State Department looking at passport applications submitted by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain without proper authorization. One of the issues raised was the propriety of using contractor employees in positions where they had access to sensitive personal data. In this case it seems only sensitive personal data they had access to was date and place of birth and social security number.
Consider the vast amount of personal data in the hands of contract background investigators: date and place of birth, social security number, telephone number, address, motherâ€™s maiden name, place of employment, personal identifying information of spouse or cohabitant, comprehensive credit bureau report with complete account numbers, criminal history information, and information about past indiscretions. The same applies to contractor employees working as investigative case controllers and filing clerks.
Itâ€™s strange that after 9/11 the U.S. Government chose to replace all contractor security personnel at airports with federal employees, but used contractors to investigate their backgrounds to determine if they were eligible for employment. The government also uses mercenaries to protect government officials. Until 2006 OPM contract investigators were conducting security clearance investigations of other contract investigators and federal investigators. A conflict of interest? You bet. Some federal agencies are still doing this. Surprisingly the adjudication of security clearances is still considered â€œinherently governmental.â€Â But the conduct of security clearance investigations is not.