“Company allegedly misled government about security clearance checks”

June 28, 2013

The Washington Post on June 27, 2013 released the following:

By Tom Hamburger and Zachary A. Goldfarb

“Federal investigators have told lawmakers they have evidence that USIS, the contractor that screened Edward Snowden for his top-secret clearance, repeatedly misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, according to people familiar with the matter.

The alleged transgressions are so serious that a federal watchdog indicated he plans to recommend that the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees most background checks, end ties with USIS unless it can show it is performing responsibly, the people said.

Cutting off USIS could present a major logistical quagmire for the nation’s already-jammed security clearance process. The federal government relies heavily on contractors to approve workers for some of its most sensitive jobs in defense and intelligence. Falls Church-based USIS is the largest single private provider for government background checks.

The inspector general of OPM, working with the Justice Department, is examining whether USIS failed to meet a contractual obligation that it would conduct reviews of all background checks the company performed on behalf of government agencies, the people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation has not yet been resolved.

After conducting an initial background check of a candidate for employment, USIS was required to perform a second review to make sure no important details had been missed. From 2008 through 2011, USIS allegedly skipped this second review in up to 50 percent of the cases. But it conveyed to federal officials that these reviews had, in fact, been performed.

The shortcut made it appear that USIS was more efficient than it actually was and may have triggered incentive awards for the company, the people briefed on the matter said. Investigators, who have briefed lawmakers on the allegations, think the strategy may have originated with senior executives, the people said.

Ray Howell, director of corporate communications at USIS, declined to comment on Thursday.

In a statement last week, USIS said it received a subpoena from the inspector general of OPM in January 2012. “USIS complied with that subpoena and has cooperated fully with the government’s civil investigative efforts,” the statement said. The company would not comment on the Snowden case.

It is not known whether USIS did anything improper on its 2011 background check of Snowden, the 30-year-old who leaked documents about the inner workings of the NSA and is now the subject of a global drama. He gained access to those documents after he was cleared to work at NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

Last week, Patrick E. McFarland, the inspector general of OPM, said he has concerns about Snowden’s background check. “We do believe that there may be some problems,” he said.

The broader concerns about background checks are not limited to USIS. McFarland’s office has 47 open investigations into alleged wrongdoing by individuals in the background checks industry, according to a statement from the inspector general’s office. Separately, since 2006, the watchdog has won convictions in 18 cases in which employees claimed to have verified information that ultimately turned out to be false or not even checked.

“There is an alarmingly insufficient level of oversight of the federal investigative-services program,” McFarland said last week in congressional testimony. “A lack of independent verification of the organization that conducts these important background investigations is a clear threat to national security.”

McFarland’s office declined to comment on the details of the investigation. “We have never indicated whether the case was criminal, civil, or administrative,” a statement from the office said.

Last week, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said USIS is the subject of a criminal probe as a result of a “systematic failure” to conduct background checks. She did not elaborate. A spokesperson said Thursday that the senator stands by her statement.

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs a Homeland Security subcommittee, said he plans to introduce legislation within two weeks to increase oversight of the security clearance process, including giving inspectors general more power to audit funding and other aspects of the massive effort to provide 4.9 million Americans with authorized access to classified and other sensitive government information.

“I cannot believe that this is handled in such a shoddy and cavalier manner,” Tester said in an interview Thursday. “I personally believe that if you are under criminal investigation, you should be suspended from the process until it is resolved.”

Tester added: “We have spent hundreds of billions in this country trying to keep classified information classified and to keep people from outside coming in. And what we see here is that we have a problem from the inside.”

USIS, which was spun off from the federal government in the 1990s, has become the dominant player in the background checks business. It does about 45 percent of all background checks for OPM, according to congressional staffers. USIS has 7,000 employees.

USIS has been under financial pressure in recent years because of federal cutbacks and less generous contracts from the government, according to financial analysts working at Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. The firm’s parent company, Altegrity, is owned by Providence Equity Partners, a private equity firm. USIS has two main competitors, KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition Defense, OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal, International Criminal Court Defense, and US Seizure of Non-Resident, Foreign-Owned Assets. Because we have experience dealing with INTERPOL, our firm understands the inter-relationship that INTERPOL’s “Red Notice” brings to this equation.

The author of this blog is Douglas C. McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Stewart Chase, Former Background Investigator For Federal Government, Pleads Guilty to Making a False Statement

July 22, 2011

The U.S. Attorneys Office District of Columbia on July 21, 2011 released the following:

“WASHINGTON – Stewart Chase, 53, a former background investigator who did work under contract for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), pled guilty today to a charge stemming from his falsification of work on background investigations of federal employees and contractors, announced U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. and Patrick E. McFarland, Inspector General for the Office of Personnel Management.

Chase, of Sterling, Virginia, pled guilty in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to a charge of making a false statement. The Honorable James E. Boasberg scheduled sentencing for October 6, 2011. The charge carries a statutory penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. As part of the guilty plea, Chase has agreed to pay $131,101 in restitution to the federal government.

According to a statement of offense submitted to the Court, Chase was employed by United States Investigations Services and CACI International Inc. as an investigator under contract to conduct background investigations on behalf of OPM’s Federal Investigative Services.

Between July 2006 and December 2007, in more than four dozen Reports of Investigations on background investigations, Chase represented that he had interviewed a source or reviewed a record regarding the subject of the background investigation when, in fact, he had not conducted the interview or obtained the record. These reports were utilized and relied upon by the agencies requesting the background investigations to determine whether the subjects were suitable for positions having access to classified information, for positions impacting national security, or for receiving or retaining security clearances.

Chase’s false representations have required OPM’s Federal Investigative Services to reopen and rework numerous background investigations that were assigned to him during the time period of his falsifications, at an estimated cost of $131,101 to the U.S. government. The restitution in this case will be paid to Federal Investigative Services.

This is one of several cases prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in the last three years involving false representations by background investigators and record checkers working on federal background investigations. Eight background investigatorsand two record checkers previously were convicted of charges.

Federal Investigative Services, formerly known as the Center for Federal Investigative Services or the Federal Investigative Services Division, through its workforce of approximately 7,300 investigators, is responsible for conducting background investigations for numerous federal agencies and their contractors, on individuals either employed by or seeking employment with those agencies or contractors. Federal Investigative Services processed approximately 2 million investigations in the 2010 fiscal year.

In conducting background investigations, the investigators conduct interviews of individuals who have information about the person who is the subject of the review. In addition, the investigators seek out, obtain, and review documentary evidence, such as employment records, to verify and corroborate information provided by either the subject of the background investigation or by persons interviewed during the investigation. After conducting interviews and obtaining documentary evidence, the investigators prepare a Report of Investigation containing the results of the interviews and document reviews, and electronically submit the material to OPM in Washington, D.C. OPM then provides a copy of the investigative file to the requesting agency, which can use the information to determine an individual’s eligibility for employment or a security clearance.

In announcing the guilty plea, U.S. Attorney Machen and Inspector General McFarland praised the efforts of Special Agent Christopher Sulhoff, OPM, Office of the Inspector General, and Philip Kroop, Chief of Quality and Integrity Assurance, OPM-Federal Investigative Services. Mr. Machen and Mr. McFarland also acknowledged the work of Assistant U.S. Attorneys Ellen Chubin Epstein, Mary Chris Dobbie and Seth B. Waxman, who investigated and prosecuted this matter.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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