Edward Snowden’s background security check was grossly inadequate
posted at 9:01 pm on August 28, 2013 by Bruce McQuain
Apparently there’s a been an investigation into the background check Edward Snowden had undergone and it was found to be … “inadequate”. I know, you’re shocked aren’t you?
The most recent background check of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden was so inadequate that too few people were interviewed and potential concerns weren’t pursued, according to a federal review following his leak of some of the nation’s most closely guarded secrets.
The background checkers failed to verify Mr. Snowden’s account of a past security violation and his work for the Central Intelligence Agency, they didn’t thoroughly probe an apparent trip to India that he had failed to report, and they didn’t get significant information from anyone who knew him beyond his mother and girlfriend, according to the review.
National Counterintelligence Executive Frank Montoya Jr., who led the review, said the 2011 background check by a private contractor “did not present a comprehensive picture of Mr. Snowden,” according to documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
None of the individual errors identified by Mr. Montoya, a senior official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, suggest the background check missed red flags, but together they depict an incomplete process that, if conducted properly, might have limited Mr. Snowden’s career ambitions.
If you’ve ever been through one of those background checks, you know that if they’re done correctly, they’re very detailed and cover just about all aspects of your past. They also take some time. Yet, even with his background check incomplete, and as Montoya claims, inadequate, he was still somehow able to re-qualify for a high-level security clearance.
After the background check renewed Mr. Snowden’s high-level security clearance, he had access, through his job at Booz Allen Hamilton, to top secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs that he since has given to journalists.
Nice. Well done. How many other potential Snowdens are there with “inadequate” background checks thumbing through our nation’s most secret secrets? We’ll likely never know … until they make headlines.
How “inadequate” was Snowden’s background check? It is a litany of errors, oversights and omissions:
The office’s review found that those conducting the check failed to verify his past work for the CIA through personnel records or interviews. Mr. Snowden said he couldn’t provide names of people who could verify his employment because it was classified, according to the review.
The review said the background investigators didn’t make enough efforts to interview character witnesses who could have provided details about Mr. Snowden. The former NSA contractor stated he only had social contact with his mother and girlfriend, who was listed as a character reference and was interviewed by investigators, according to the report.
Mr. Montoya said the background checkers were unsuccessful in contacting a second person whom Mr. Snowden had listed as a reference, and they didn’t indicate whether they attempted to contact a third reference. The review also said those conducting the check fell short by failing to interview neighbors of Mr. Snowden during his residence in Japan.
An interview with Mr. Snowden included a discussion about a past security violation but the checkers didn’t independently verify his account, Mr. Montoya’s review found. The nature of Mr. Snowden’s violation wasn’t clear.
Also, the background interviewers learned from a work supervisor that Mr. Snowden had traveled to India, which Mr. Snowden hadn’t reported during the background-check process, but the final background report failed to clarify the purpose of the trip, according to Mr. Montoya’s review.
Overall, the background check contained limited information on Mr. Snowden beyond that obtained from the interviews with him, his mother and his girlfriend, according to the review. It said a recent supervisor and co-worker had infrequent contact with Mr. Snowden and were of little help.
While Mr. Snowden’s work in classified environments may have made it hard to track down some information, the background check “did not reflect attempts to independently verify Mr. Snowden’s claims,” said the Montoya review.
Essentially, given all the missing and incomplete information and unverified claims, Mr. Snowden should never have received his clearance. It is as simple as that. There is absolutely no excuse for such shoddy investigative work and there’s certainly no rush to hand out a security clearance without adequate verification. But apparently, this is what passed for background checks, at least at the time Snowden came aboard.
You have to wonder … how can a government which can’t even do an adequate enough job to protect its own secrets claim it can protect us or our secrets?