Contractor responsible for Snowden background check under investigation

The contractor that conducted a background check of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is under criminal investigation, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Thursday.

McCaskill said at a Senate hearing Thursday that Falls Church, Va.-based USIS was being investigated by the Office of Personnel Management inspector general for a systematic failure to properly conduct its investigations.

McCaskill said that the USIS was under investigation for a period of time that included Snowden’s background check in 2011.

“This is a reminder that background investigations have real consequences for national security,” McCaskill said at the a joint Senate Homeland Security subcommittee hearing examining the security clearance process.

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At the hearing, Michelle Schmitz, the assistant inspector general for investigations, confirmed an investigation was underway. She said Snowden’s background check was conducted before the investigation into the contractor began in late 2011.

McCaskill said that the USIS conducts two-thirds of background checks run by contractors for the Office of Personnel Management, which conducts 90 percent of government background checks used to approve security clearances.

The contractor received $200 million from OPM for background checks last year, McCaskill said.

Patrick McFarland, the OPM inspector general, said that 18 individual background investigators have been criminally convicted of fabricating background checks since 2006.

There are also 36 pending cases against investigators, nine active cases and two where a defended pleaded or is expected soon to plead guilty.

McFarland said in his testimony his office does not have the financial resources to investigate all fabrication cases in a timely manner.

McFarland declined to comment on the status of the investigation into USIS because it is ongoing.

The company said in a statement it has “never been informed that it is under criminal investigation.”

“In January 2012, USIS received a subpoena for records” from the IG, the contractor said, and it complied with the subpoena.

— This story was updated at 6:21 p.m.