DOD report: Felons, people under foreign influence received security clearances

DOD report: Felons, people under foreign influence received security clearances
© Greg Nash

The Department of Defense (DOD) released a report on Wednesday detailing how government contractors continued to access sensitive government data after going through a vetting process, despite prior criminal records or other questionable past activity. 

The government revoked the security clearances of 165 defense contractors in 2017 and in most cases further investigations revealed that they had been previously linked to troublesome or unlawful activity, according to a copy of the report obtained by The Hill.

"Of those 165 cases, 151 people had pre-existing issues that they did not disclose and were not discovered during initial checks; the issues were not identified until the investigation was completed," the report reads.

NBC News first reported the DOD data, provided to Rep. Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsDem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting Hillicon Valley: Trump denies Russian meddling at presser with Putin | Republicans join in criticism of Trump | FCC chief rejects Sinclair-Tribune merger | Uber faces probe over gender discrimination | Social media execs headed to Capitol Overnight Energy: Koch backs bill opposing carbon taxes | Lawmakers look to Interior budget to block offshore drilling | EPA defends FOIA process MORE (D-Md.) in mid-October in response to an inquiry about their vetting processes. 


The activities ranged from suspicious financial dealings to concerns that individuals had been compromised by the influence of foreign governments.

The report noted one profound example in which an individual, who received an interim secret clearance in 2015, did not disclose a prior felony charge.

"He did not disclose the fact that he had been charged with felony rape of a child, which was later reduced to a misdemeanor, of which he was found guilty. The arrest was discovered during the investigation by a local law enforcement check but did not appear on any initial checks with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which are currently part of the DOD interim clearance process," the report noted.

Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, cited the report as a warning sign that should be enough to compel his panel's chairman to look into the interim security clearances issued to President TrumpDonald John TrumpWSJ: Trump ignored advice to confront Putin over indictments Trump hotel charging Sean Spicer ,000 as book party venue Bernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin MORE’s top staffers.

“Over the past year, I have asked you repeatedly to join me in investigating critical failings in our nation’s security clearance processes and troubling irregularities with the security clearances of senior aides to President Donald Trump,” Cummings wrote in a letter to committee Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyWill Congress ever hold our federal agencies accountable for contempt? Dem lawmaker calls on House to subpoena American translator from Trump-Putin meeting The Hill's Morning Report — Trump isolated and denounced after Putin meeting MORE (R-S.C.). “You have consistently refused to join any of these oversight requests."

He asked Gowdy to issue a subpoena in an effort to prompt the Trump administration to comply with his document request.

“I believe that serious deficiencies in our nation’s security clearance processes represent an urgent and grave risk to our national security,” he added.

The FBI is responsible for vetting senior White House aides.

Cummings as well as other powerful committee Democrats in a joint letter on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to disclose how it handles security clearances, following reports that senior White house adviser Jared Kushner is still using a temporary clearance.

The New Yorker recently reported that the president's son-in-law is attending the President’s Daily Brief while he operates on an interim rather than permanent security clearance. 

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) as well as other Democratic lawmakers have long been calling for Kushner's clearance to be revoked.

The Defense Security Service oversaw roughly 200,000 interim security clearance decisions over the past three years, according to the report. They granted few interim clearances that received the full vetting process last year as a result of its investigation backlog that is clogged with roughly 700,000 cases.

The report noted that the most common reason a person is denied a security clearance is related to concerns over an individual's financial transactions.

An Oversight spokesperson for Gowdy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.