A year after the Washington Navy Yard shootings security clearance process reform is moving forward, albeit slowly and methodically. A recent Washington Post article highlighted the progress already made in certain areas, but also came to the conclusion that there is still quite a bit of work to be done before any meaningful changes are effected. Among the changes underway are reducing the number of clearance holders to those that actually need them, decreasing the intervals in between reinvestigations, and updating the continuous evaluation process to make it more robust and effective.
While recent news reports have focused on the NSA’s PRISM program and the government’s use of personal data to detect terror threats, a recent news report sheds new light on the massive commercial business of collecting and selling personal data.
CBS News recently broadcast a special investigative report regarding data brokers who collect personal information about you and sell it to other commercial entities. The amount of data being collected is staggering, with complete dossiers being compiled on millions of people including purchase histories, buying preferences, on-line browsing history, and even medical and prescription drug information. The report highlighted the fact that every time you access a website it is more than likely that there are many other entities monitoring and recording your activity on that site for information that they package and sell to someone else.
In a continuing series of reports on the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) lack of oversight concerning investigative service contractors, the latest reports paint a bleak picture for OPM’s ability to oversee the quality of work provided by the contractor investigation companies that complete the majority of background investigations for OPM. The report disclosed that federal and internal auditors found a preponderance of evidence that indicated completed investigations were not reviewed before being submitted to OPM. In some instances an impossibly high number of cases were reviewed by the same person in a short period of time, an indicator that they were rubber stamped instead of actually being reviewed for completeness and accuracy.
The Washington D.C. metropolitan area is home to over one million security clearance holders who work for intelligence agencies, military branches, other federal agencies, or are federal contractors. Many of these clearance holders have access to information and systems beyond the capability of the average citizen. According to a Washington Post article, some of these clearance holders have used their special access as a security clearance holder to intimidate, control, or prevent their spouses from reporting domestic violence issues to authorities, or from seeking outside help. These particular clearance holders used their position of power to create feelings of doubt, paranoia, fear, or even guilt in their spouse by downplaying the seriousness of the issues, telling them no one will believe them, threatening bodily harm or even death, or making pleas to the effect that if the spouse sought help it would adversely affect their clearance status.