Top government official: Murderers, rapists getting interim security clearances

Top government official: Murderers, rapists getting interim security clearances
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Backlogs have led the federal government to issue interim clearances to individuals later discovered to be convicted rapists, murderers and pedophiles, according to the director of the agency responsible for overseeing temporary security clearances for the Pentagon.

McClatchy D.C. reported that Daniel Payne, the head of the Defense Security Service, told attendees at the National Security Summit in Washington on Wednesday that about 100,000 people working for companies with Pentagon contracts or at thousands of cleared facilities across the country hold such temporary clearances while awaiting full background checks.

"I’ve got murderers who have access to classified information. I have rapists. I have pedophiles. I have people involved in child porn,” Payne said at a panel discussion. “This is the risk we are taking.”

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Individuals must fill out a questionnaire, called an SF-86, and undergo initial credit and background checks before obtaining an interim clearance. A full security clearance requires a much deeper look into a individual's finances, family history and overseas travel, among other things.

Payne said that granting a lower-level clearance takes about nine months, while issuing a top-secret clearance runs closer to a year, McClatchy reported.

Granting interim clearances have become necessary in order to keep weapons development programs running at full force, he added.

The concerns do not affect the country's intelligence agencies, which do not grant interim security clearances, he said. 

The backlog in issuing and renewing security clearances swelled in 2015 and 2016, according to Charles Phalen, the director of the National Background Investigations Bureau, who also spoke on the panel.

According to McClatchy, the backlog includes about 700,000 cases, though only about 300,000 of those involve people applying for clearances for the first time.