U.S. sues Prov. Equity contractor over background checks

United States Investigations Services LLC, whose background checks helped National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis get security clearances, was accused of fraud by the government in a whistle-blower lawsuit. More

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U.S. sues Prov. Equity contractor over background checks

BLOOMBERG FILE PHOTO/RICH CLEMENT
THE UNITED STATES government is suing federal contractor USIS, which allegedly failed to perform adequate background investigations for the U.S. Departments of Defense, Justice, Treasury and Homeland Security. USIS, which vetted both Edward Snowden and Aaron Alexis, the Washington Navy Yard shooter, is owned by Providence Equity Partners.
Posted 1/23/14

SYDNEY – United States Investigations Services LLC, whose background checks helped National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis get security clearances, was accused of fraud by the government in a whistle-blower lawsuit.

The U.S. joined the case in October and filed its complaint yesterday, accusing the company of breaking its contract with the U.S. by failing to provide adequate background checks in at least 665,000 instances. The government claims mirror those of the whistle-blower in the case made public last year.

The case doesn’t involve the background investigations of either Snowden or Alexis, a Justice Department official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly on the case previously said. The two aren’t mentioned in the government’s complaint in federal court in Montgomery, Ala.

USIS management, beginning at least in March 2008, started “dumping” or “flushing” cases to boost profit and revenue, which involved releasing the investigations to the government for payment and saying they were complete when they hadn’t received quality reviews as required by the contract, the U.S. said in the complaint, which cites internal company emails. A USIS employee said in one of the emails, “Shelves are as clean as they could get. Flushed everything like a dead goldfish.”

USIS, created as part of an initiative to reduce the size of the civil service, is facing questions from lawmakers about why the company granted clearances to Snowden, who exposed top-secret U.S. spying programs last year, and to Alexis, who killed 12 people at the Navy Yard on Sept. 16 and died in a shootout with police.

Congressional inquiry

Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat from Delaware and chairman of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, said after the Navy Yard shooting that the panel would take a closer look at the background check procedure for security clearances.

“Many national security experts have long argued the security clearance process is antiquated and in need of modernization,” Carper said at an Oct. 31 hearing. “Given recent events, I think we have to ask whether the system is fundamentally flawed.”

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