McCaskill Rallies Senators Around Bipartisan Bill to Strengthen Security Clearance Background Checks
Senators urge colleagues to support legislation implementing automatic reviews of workers with clearances: ‘We must act now’
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is calling on her fellow lawmakers to back bipartisan legislation to strengthen the government’s security clearance process.
McCaskill, joined by the bill’s cosponsors Susan Collins (R-Maine), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), urged their fellow Senators to address the systemic problems with the security clearance background check process, illustrated by the recent security leaks by contractor Edward Snowden and the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The legislation—introduced by McCaskill and her colleagues—would implement an automated review of public records and databases for any information that might affect the security clearance status of individuals who have such a clearance.
“Although we have made advances in the processing of background checks, there are still gaping holes in the current security clearance process that have enabled people who exhibit obvious signs of high-risk behavior to remain undetected,” McCaskill’s bipartisan letter reads. “We must act now.”
This bipartisan legislation would require the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to implement an automated review that would search public records and databases for information on every individual with a security clearance at least twice, at random times, every five years. These audits would identify information these individuals are already obligated by law to disclose including information relating to any criminal or civil legal proceeding; financial information relating to the covered individual; data maintained on any terrorist or criminal watch list; and any publicly-available information that suggests ill intent, vulnerability to blackmail, compulsive behavior, allegiance to another country, or change in ideology of the covered individual.
If, in the course of a randomly timed audit required under the Senators’ bill, the review finds any information pertinent to security clearance, the OPM would be required to notify the agency employing the individual—allowing the agency to follow the procedures already in current law to make an informed determination as to the individual’s ongoing employment, level of clearance, and access to classified information.
Recent reports have identified significant issues in the execution of background investigations on Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, including the exclusion of previous arrest records and a failure to independently verify submitted information.
The Collins-McCaskill-Ayotte-Heitkamp legislation has been endorsed by:
· Federal Managers Association;
· The FBI Agents Association;
· The Alcohol-Tobacco-Firearms and Explosives Association;
· The International Association of Chiefs of Police
· The National Native American Law Enforcement Association;
· General Dynamics Information Technologies;
· Lt. Gen. Charles J. Cunningham Jr., Former Director of the Defense Security Service (1999-2002);
· Brian Stafford, Former Director of the United States Secret Service (1999-2003);
· Howard Safir, Former Police Commissioner of New York City (1996-2000);
· Floyd Clarke, Former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (1993);
· Michael Sullivan, Former Acting Director of the ATF (2006-2009) and US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts (2001-2009);
· TechAmerica Foundation;
· and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers.
A copy of McCaskill’s letter is available online HERE.
The full text of the Senator’s legislation is available online HERE.