On Thursday, January 23, 2014, Edward Snowden, the man who leaked thousands of pages of sensitive National Security Agency documents to the press and the public last summer, answered questions regarding the motivations behind the leaks. Snowden’s actions revealed numerous NSA spying programs and breaches of citizens’ constitutional rights, igniting controversy in government sectors. However, now, the government is insisting that Snowden should not have been given clearance to NSA records in the first place, and that his employment was a mistake caused in part by a faulty background check.
In fact, the federal government is accusing USIS, the firm that vetted Edward Snowden and countless other government employees – including Aaron Alexis, the man who killed 12 others in a Washington navy yard shooting last fall – of delivering phony background check reports. On Wednesday evening, January 22, the Department of Justice filed a massive lawsuit against USIS, claiming that the private firm had faked approximately 665,000 background checks between 2008 and 2012. Filed in the United States District Court of Alabama, the lawsuit contends that USIS knowingly delivered faulty and incomplete background checks to boost its own revenues, breaching its contract with the government over half a million times, and effectively swindling American taxpayers out of “tens of millions of dollars.”
More specifically, the lawsuit claims that USIS participated in a process called “dumping” or “flushing,” which involved the use of software that automatically marked a vast number of cases and employee records as “Review Complete” before delivering them back to the United States Office of Personnel Management. In turn, the OPM took these bogus reviews to mean that the employees in question had been cleared for duty, giving security clearance to people who probably should have been kept outside of the government system. In their defense, USIS upper management has argued that the “dumping” scheme was something that was carried out – without management approval – by a fringe group of employees. USIS has also stated that anyone involved in the scheme has been terminated and is no longer working for the company.
Regardless of whether or not the perpetrators behind the dumping scheme are still working for USIS, the company is undoubtedly in big trouble. Supposedly, neither Snowden’s check nor Alexis’s were among the fraudulently dumped cases. Still, 665,000 others were, and that number of skipped fingerprint screenings and other background investigations would be a massive liability under any circumstance. With the Department of Justice claiming a pile of evidence – including damning emails sent within the organization – and a USIS whistleblower working to help bring the company down, the government 's case appears strong.