ByÂ Jim McElhatton-The Washington Times
Federal authorities responsible for granting security clearances to government employees and contractors are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars investigating the investigators.
Government inspectors say they have undertaken a broader campaign in recent years to root out fraud in background checks as more national security clearances are being sought than ever before.
Overall, court records reviewed by The Washington Times show at least 170 confirmed falsifications of interviews or record checks and more than 1,000 others that couldnâ€™t be verified. The background investigators, whose work helps determine who gets top-secret security clearance, were submitting forms saying they conducted interviews or verified official documents when they never did.
â€œThe monetary loss sustained by the government does not, nor cannot, represent the cost associated with potential compromise of our nationâ€™s security and the trust of the American people in its governmentâ€™s workforce,â€Â Kathy L. Dillaman, associate director in charge of investigations at theÂ Office of Personnel Management, wrote in a victim-impact statement for a recent court case involving a convicted investigator.
Douglas Shontz, a national security researcher at theÂ Rand Corp. who had conducted back ground checks at theÂ Defense Department, said background investigations used to be the purview of retiredÂ FBI agents and police detectives. That has changed as more and more contractors and employees require security clearances. Many of the background checks are now outsourced.
â€œYou have a huge push to get people in the door,â€ he said.
Mr. Shontz said that, in general, background interviews with neighbors, former employers, associates and others help determine whether someone could be more vulnerable to taking bribes or likely to talk too freely about sensitive government information.
â€œThey can highlight potential issues for follow-up,â€ he said.
TheÂ OPMâ€™s office of inspector general has an initiative â€œfocused on fabrication cases involvingÂ OPM Federal Investigative Servicesbackground investigators,â€ saidÂ Michelle Schmitz, assistant inspector general for investigations.
During the past three years, court records show, seven investigators and two records checkers have been convicted of federal crimes in Washington involving falsification of records. There is no indication in any of the cases that the people who got the security clearances eventually were determined to be unsuitable.
Still, investigators were forced to reopen old cases, and one falsified interview or document check can raise doubts about entire investigations.
â€œIn addition to the potential damage toÂ OPMâ€™s reputation as the primary provider of federal background investigations, the cost of investigating and correcting the case is substantial both in time and money,â€Â Ms. Dillaman wrote in a victim-impact statement for a recent court case.
Those convicted of lying about background checks have faced sentences ranging from probation to more than two years in federal prison, court records show.
To read more, visit:Â http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jun/21/top-secret-clearance-checks-falsified/
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