Contractor that screened Edward Snowden was under investigation before NSA leak

The firm that screened contractor Edward Snowden before he leaked classified information about a controversial National Security Agency program has been under investigation since 2011.

Patrick McFarland, inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management, confirmed the probe during a Senate subcommittee hearing on the government’s security-clearance processes Thursday.

McFarland declined to provide specifics on the investigation of USIS, which claims to be the government’s largest provider of government background checks.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP) - Sen. Claire McCaskill
Sen. Claire McCaskill  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said her office received information that the probe is a criminal investigation “related to USIS’s systematic failure to adequately conduct investigations under its contract.”

Subcommittee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) asked McFarland whether USIS may have failed to complete an appropriate and thorough screening of Snowden.

“Yes, we do believe that there may be some problems,” McFarland said.

USIS acknowledged in a statement Thursday that it had responded to a January 2012 subpoena from the inspector general’s office, but the firm did not confirm that it had investigated Snowden.

“USIS conducts thousands of background investigations annually for OPM and other government agencies,” the statement said. “These investigations are confidential and USIS does not comment on them.”

Susan Ruge, associate counsel to the inspector general, said on Friday that USIS’s re-screening of Snowden ended in April 2011 and that the IG began its probe of the firm later that year.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks | June 21, 2013