Failures

by Tim Cushing


Filed Under:
contractor, doj, ed snowden, fine, nsa, security clearance

Companies:
usis



Contractor Who Cleared Snowden For His NSA Position Fined $30 Million By The DOJ

from the can-only-assume-Snowden-received-a-cursory-examination dept

The government seems to have lost interest in finding anyone to hang for Snowden's all-access tour of the NSA's internal servers -- access that greatly aided in his absconding with a number of documents revealing the surprising extent of the agency's surveillance programs. It certainly still wants to hang Snowden -- literally, if some legislators get their way.

It has, however, decided to nail one handy scapegoat to the wall. This would be the contractor who allowed Snowden to get in the door in the first place. The Register's Shaun Nichols reports that the DOJ is fining US Investigative Services (USIS) $30 million for generally being completely terrible at the one thing it's supposed to be doing: vetting applicants for sensitive government jobs.

The DoJ announced on Wednesday that US Investigations Services (USIS) will give up a $30m (£19.14m) payment in exchange for settling charges that it violated the US False Claims Act by failing to properly screen applicants for government security clearances.

According to the DoJ, USIS failed to properly screen federal security clearance applicants and, in some cases, submitted incomplete background check reports to the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
The USIS wasn't simply mediocre. It was awful. Shortly after Snowden revealed himself as the source of the leaks, USIS was revealed to have riddled the government with security holes over most of the past decade. One contractor was caught interviewing dead people during background checks. Another singlehandedly submitted 1,600 falsified reports.

Then in January of last year, the revelations got even worse. The DOJ accused USIS of faking background checks on 665,000 federal employees -- something the DOJ understatedly called "taking shortcuts."

The USIS won't actually be paying this fine, however. It will instead work its debt off doing the DOJ's dishes doing the same thing it couldn't be trusted to do in the first place when it was still collecting a paycheck. Why this hasn't resulted in a permanent pink slip for the contractor is beyond me, but it does show the government's endless willingness to forgive… well, certain contractors.


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 1:41pm

    For comparison:

    Leaking classified documents in order to expose government 'misconduct' = Forced to flee country, and avoid any country with an extradition treaty with the USG for the rest of your life to avoid ending up in the clutches of a highly vindictive government.

    vs

    Falsify, on a massive scale, background checks and other sensitive data, allowing unsuitable individuals to be hired on to positions where they have access to valuable and sensitive data = Told that you won't be getting paid for your job for a while while you 'work off' your 'fine'. Do not however lose said job, as that would be uncalled for.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sorrykb (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:02pm

    Silver lining?

    The DOJ accused USIS of faking background checks on 665,000 federal employees -- something the DOJ understatedly called "taking shortcuts."

    Just wondering... Would that mean that those particular federal employees' information was safe from the recent OPM hack? (or were they part of a different system altogether?)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:09pm

      Re: Silver lining?

      USIS faked conducting the background checks. OPM lost, among other things, the forms submitted that told the government background information on the applicant: whom to interview as references, where the applicant had lived, what embarassing things the application had done, etc. Although the OPM breach might have been worse if USIS had been thorough, much of what OPM lost was not work product from USIS, so even if USIS had reliably sent in blank results for everyone, the OPM breach would still be very damaging.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        sorrykb (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 8:23pm

        Re: Re: Silver lining?

        Sure... crush my hopes... which were admittedly completely unjustified.
        In other news, a rather-delayed letter from my former healthcare provider informs me that an unknown hacker accessed the parts of their system that contain "personal information, like name, address, date of birth, social security number, medical record number, Medicare or health plan ID number, and some medical information (e.g. medical condition, medications, procedures, and test results)." So, nothing important.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:21pm

    Surprised?

    ALL penalties lately are just coupons for a low percentage off the next purchase from the company being "fined". And usually, the terms make it difficult to collect even when you do wish to take advantage of the coupon, with all uncollected coupons becoming invalid after a certain date. So in the end, the "fine" is often far short of the original figure, and merely served to make a temporary boost in sales.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Ambrellite, 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:22pm

    Same story, different day

    So the USIS paid about $50 per record they falsified, and in exchange for that pittance the DOJ won't prosecute them, presumably because government prosecutors doubt they'd be able to secure a conviction. Or because prosecuting them could cause great harm to the U.S. Financial system. Or national security. Or something.

    And they'll continue doing background checks for the government. Because why not?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:36pm

      Re: Same story, different day

      Or because they ARE an investigative firm and investigated the prosecutors before settling.

      "That's a nice job/reputation you've got. Be a shame if anything happened to it."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 21 Aug 2015 @ 4:11pm

      Re: Same story, different day

      Why not? Because if they didn't have a contractor doing background checks, they'd have to do it themselves. And that's both boring and leaves them without a convenient scapegoat.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:36pm

    Mediocre? ...perhaps,

    but they did at least one thing right.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stephen, 21 Aug 2015 @ 2:47pm

    The Bright Side

    According to the DoJ, USIS failed to properly screen federal security clearance applicants and, in some cases, submitted incomplete background check reports to the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
    Look on the bright side. Thanks to USIS, at least some of those security clearance forms that the Chinese stole from OPM's servers were less complete than they otherwise might have been.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 3:11pm

    Ummm

    I really have to ask some stupid questions..

    1. So, a Agency that is DESIGNED to know everything about EVERYONE...cant do its OWN background checks??

    2. Background checks that are so Stringent, that they cant FIND anyone, using their OWN criteria?? So they hire someone else to do it..

    3. AS in #1, they are SUPPOSED to know about People and agencies.,..and they DIDNT see any of this happening BEFORE SNOWDEN?? Where is the FBI in this..

    4. ALL this info on the Citizens in the USA, all this spying...and VERY little on the CORPS running this country??

    5. And then they CUT the IRS by 30%?? I think the IRS has a few jobs for them..

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 3:51pm

    Another question to be raised:

    If Snowden was given an adequate background check would he have been successfully screened out?

    I don't believe Snowden was other than who he said he was, nor did he have a shady past before his NSA tenure.

    Otherwise that stuff would have been broadcast all over the mainstream news.

    If anything, Snowden was too ethical to be an NSA tech.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Arthur Moore (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 5:08pm

      Did Snowden receive a background check?

      It would be ironic, for all the company's misconduct, if Snowden's background check was 100% genuine.

      I mean, they knew he believed in the EFF. He had stickers on his work laptop for crying out loud.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Prisoner 201, 24 Aug 2015 @ 4:50am

      Re: Another question to be raised:

      Of course Snowden would have been screened out as a security risk if he had been given a real background check. Just like anyone with a conscience would.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Oblate (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 10:14am

      Re: Another question to be raised:

      Given USIS's track record, Snowden could probably pass their background check now.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 8:43pm

    Why this hasn't resulted in a permanent pink slip...

    They obviously have a highly-placed friend in government.

    I also doubt they'll actually "pay" that $30 million. It's much more likely the bills will simply be padded to make up the difference.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 21 Aug 2015 @ 10:42pm

    Who would have thought that vetting applicants for the US government would require mind reading skills?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2015 @ 5:37am

    Whats the chance that the guy investigating this ALSO received a fake background check and has some bad shit to hide?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2015 @ 8:29am

    This sounds like a classic case of government giving up a function to the private sector, and later being unable to take it back because they no longer have the capability to perform it. For most western governments, whether it's cleaning services or highly sensitive security checks, the only real alternative is to take the contract away from one hopelessly incompetent contractor and give it to another.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Aug 2015 @ 1:29pm

    Please take the weegie board away from the DOJ.

    There are better ways to select cases for prosecution.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 26 Aug 2015 @ 10:20am

      Re: Please take the weegie board away from the DOJ.

      Yeah. If some important official wants your land or your wife or your assets, they prosecute and put you away long enough to die in prison.

      If not, meh.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stosh, 22 Aug 2015 @ 10:05pm

    Wonder if they did the background check on Hillary Clinton also...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 1:55am

    Wow this is like watching a circus act!
    Too bad the clowns are paid-for using public money.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Aug 2015 @ 2:34am

    Vetting for pro-government stooges using an ILLEGAL system

    Oh yeah, we are so heading in a good direction

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 24 Aug 2015 @ 2:17pm

    When it comes to politics or business, never attribute to incompetence, that which can be explained by necessity.

    Simple reality.

    Why use a known dishonest and purposely incompetent agency to vet federal employees for sensitive positions in the surveillance agencies??

    Had the CIAF BINSA used an actually honest and competent personnel agency to run their background checks before hiring people for positions in the CIAF BINSA, there would today, be exactly 6 employees in the federal Snoop and Scoop Agency roster.

    And they would all be cleaning staff.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Aug 2015 @ 6:04am

    Will he pay? :P

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GEMont, 26 Aug 2015 @ 5:24pm

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely

    Actually one would expect it to be the government's duty to insure that any private business contracted to do sensitive work for the government was beyond reproach and verifiably honest and above board, and that such employees were continually rechecked by officials for security flaws and failings.

    It is blatantly obvious that the USG did not do much of anything to ascertain the level of competence or honesty when hiring USIS, and it should thus be the government that is under the microscope for the failure of this business to do its job.

    A company's only purpose/goal/mandate is to make as much money as it can, by any means it can get away with, for as long as it can get away with it. That is pretty much the definition of American Business.

    It should be obvious to most people that National Security - the security of the nation - is not much of a real concern to the USG, according to the actions and attitudes that have been exposed over the last 2-3 years, and that the only real National Security concern of the USG is in its use as a get-out-of-jail-free card for everything from unfettered public asset forfeiture, to extraordinary rendition of citizens, to corporate mass surveillance partnerships, to reinterpreting the law and the constitution to allow all of the above.

    National Security is a joke and your money and rights are the punch line.

    ---

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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