News

Firm comes under fire for background check of Navy Yard shooter

Firm comes under fire for background check of Navy Yard shooter

Aaron Alexis, 34. Photo: Associated Press

By Tabassum Zakaria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The company that scrutinized former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden for a U.S. government security clearance said on Thursday it also checked the background of the Navy Yard shooter, allowing him to obtain a “secret” clearance.

USIS, working as a contractor for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), conducted a background review of Aaron Alexis, identified by law enforcement authorities as the shooter who killed 12 people at the Navy Yard before he was shot dead.

“Today we were informed that in 2007, USIS conducted a background check of Aaron Alexis for OPM,” USIS spokesman Ray Howell said in a statement.

He did not provide additional information. “We are contractually prohibited from retaining case information gathered as part of the background checks we conduct for OPM and therefore are unable to comment further on the nature or scope of this or any other background check,” Howell said.

Earlier this year, USIS became the focus of congressional scrutiny when it was discovered that the company handled the most recent background investigation of Snowden, accused of disclosing top secret materials taken from the National Security Agency facility where he worked.

“From Edward Snowden to Aaron Alexis, what’s emerging is a pattern of failure on the part of this company, and a failure of this entire system, that risks nothing less than our national security and the lives of Americans,” Senator Claire McCaskill said in a statement Thursday.

“What’s most frightening is that USIS performs a majority of background checks for our government. We clearly need a top-to-bottom overhaul of how we vet those who have access to our country’s secrets and to our secure facilities,” she said.

McCaskill, who heads the Senate Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight, said USIS does about 65 percent of all background check investigations conducted by government contractors and more than half of those conducted by the OPM.

Earlier this week, OPM said it had identified a 2004 arrest for malicious mischief during the background review for Alexis, and the Defense Department granted his security clearance in 2008.

For a “secret” clearance, the applicant fills out a questionnaire and checks are made of federal records, credit history records, and criminal history records, OPM said.

In Alexis’ case, “the appropriate federal records were obtained, and the required fieldwork was performed,” Mert Miller, associate director for Federal Investigative Services at OPM, said in a statement on Thursday.

“OPM’s involvement with matters related to Aaron Alexis’ security clearance ended when we submitted the case to the Department of Defense (DoD) for adjudication in December 2007,” Miller said. “DoD did not ask OPM for any additional investigative actions after it received the completed background investigation.”

That Alexis had a “secret” security clearance and maintained it despite several violent episodes before and after the clearance was issued has reinvigorated lawmakers’ calls for a review of how security clearances are issued.

USIS has been undergoing an investigation by OPM’s inspector general since before the Snowden and Alexis incidents. OPM’s inspector general’s office had no comment.

USIS is owned by a larger investigative company called Altegrity, which in turn is principally owned by private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

Indianapolis Colts owner pleads guilty to intoxicated driving

Fresh
James Irsay, owner of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, is pictured in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters March 17, 2014.

Billionaire James Irsay, owner of the Indianapolis Colts, was arrested in March after failing roadside field-sobriety tests.

in Sports

Phillies’ Cole Hamels, bullpen combine for no-hitter

Fresh
Sep 1, 2014; Atlanta, GA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Cole Hamels (35) throws the ball against the Atlanta Braves in the second inning at Turner Field.

Cole Hamels set up a combined no-hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies as they beat the Atlanta Braves 7-0 at Turner Field in Atlanta.

in Weird

Delta flight diverted over reclining seat dispute

A Delta Air Lines jet takes off from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., Monday, July 28, 2014. In a victory for airlines and their workers' unions, the House rejected consumers' complaints and passed legislation letting airline advertising emphasize the base price of tickets, before taxes and fees are added.

An argument over leg room and reclining seats forced a Florida-bound flight from New York to divert to a different airport.

in Entertainment

Angelina Jolie debuts wedding dress featuring kids’ artwork

The cover of People magazine, dated 15th September, 2014, featuring the wedding of Angelina Jolie to Brad Pitt.

Angelina Jolie has debuted photos of her surprise nuptials to Brad Pitt, revealing she wore a designer wedding gown featuring artwork by their six children.

in Music

Survivor’s Jimi Jamison dies at 63

Members of the band Survivor in the earl 1980s: (L-R) Marc Droubay, Jim Peterik, Stephen Ellis, Frankie Sullivan, Jimi Jamison

The family of Survivor rocker Jimi Jamison has thanked fans for the outpouring of support following his sudden death on Sunday.