Congressional IT Contractor Didn’t Pass a Background Check

By Michael Klazema on 5/15/2018

An IT contractor who had access to email servers for United States House of Representatives members worked without a background check, according to a report from security and risk management publication CSO. The contractor, Imran Awan, is currently facing fraud charges and a class-action lawsuit.

Emails leaked as part of the 2016 Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack indicate Awan was a go-to source when members of the House of Representatives needed IT assistance. Reps would contact Awan if they forgot their passwords. The CSO article indicates roughly 80 members of Congress had contact with Awan over the years.

Given this role and its inherent access to sensitive information, Awan appeared to be in line to obtain a government security clearance—or at least undergo a thorough background check. According to CSO, workers who are members of the “Congressional administrative staff” are not required to obtain national security clearances but are expected to undergo background checks. The Committee on House Administration guidelines include a section concerning shared staff—the category into which Awan would fit—and the vetting expectations for those employees.

Based on Congressional guidelines, Awan should have at least passed a “Capitol Police Criminal History Records Check.” This type of check would be the equivalent of a state criminal history check for the District of Columbia. The CSO article does not mention whether Congressional administrative staff are supposed to have any screenings beyond this criminal check—such as criminal searches outside of Washington, D.C.employment verification checks, or identity checks.

Why was Awan’s background check overlooked? The answer might be found in the wording of the Committee on House Administration guidelines. The guidelines state “it is recommended that Member and Committee offices” request a background check for shared employees due to the sensitive information those employees often access during their work. “Recommended” is the key word in that sentence: Congressional departments are not technically required to conduct background checks on shared administrative staff.

When authorizing someone to provide IT services, a House member can conduct the background check, but they can also check a box that says, “I have verified that a trustworthiness determination has been made on behalf of this shared resource by another Member.” In other words, if another member has already run a background check on a “shared resource,” that member can offer an attestation of trustworthiness for the resource.

Evidence shows many Congress members used this method to approve Awan to provide IT resources. However, no one could identify who initially attested to Awan’s trustworthiness, which means no one can verify a background check ever took place.

Awan is currently under investigation for bank fraud and potential involvement in a “cyber breach operation” during his time as a Congressional aide. There have also been accusations that Awan accessed information or servers he shouldn’t have, something that may have been prevented had he been required to pass a background check.



Tag Cloud
Recent Posts

Latest News

  • August 10 Moore Advanced teamed up with to secure the best possible hires. Read more about how this process has assisted them.
  • August 10 An adjudication withheld is a court agreement that doesn’t qualify as a conviction but can make matters confusing for individuals applying for jobs. Should you disclose a withheld adjudication to a prospective employer?
  • August 09 With adults now legally using recreational marijuana in numerous states, and with additional legalization efforts in the wings, expungement of old and minor drug-related convictions is more important than ever.
  • August 07 A West Virginia TV station is pushing the state’s Child Protective Services and Department of Health and Human Services to answer questions about background check policies. A CPS employee was recently charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, domestic assault, and threatening a police officer.
  • August 02 Woes continue for ridesharing companies struggling to keep riders safe after a man, illegally in the United States, was arrested and accused of several rapes dating back years.
  • July 31 South Carolina legislators recently passed a new law that will change the language of the state’s expungement policy. The new law will make expungement possible for repeat offenders. The previous law only allowed first offenses to be scrubbed from the public record.
  • July 26

    Hawaii employers have been banned from asking job applicants about their salary history. The new act’s effective date is January 1, 2019, and covers all employers that have at least one employee in that state.

  • July 26

    The expansion of the The North Carolina Certificate of Relief  Law, offers relief to jobseekers. An employer may take into consideration a certificate of relief despite the applicant’s criminal past; however, the certificate is not an expungement or pardon.

  • July 26

    With growing concerns about liability, businesses are transitioning away from one-time background checks in favor of continuous checks. The results are impacting both employers and employees.

  • July 25 Uber is officially launching a new ongoing criminal monitoring policy for drivers. The company started rolling out the new system in early July and will expand it in the months to come.