Not just Aaron Alexis: Hundreds of security clearances falsified

Federal prosecutors documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations by private contractors

By Natasha Lennard
September 25, 2013 6:53PM (UTC)
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Aaron Alexis (Reuters)

As was reported this week, Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis lied about his past gun-related arrest record and vast debts to pass a security clearance to work as a contractor.

USIS, the private firm contracted to carry out 45 percent of all background checks for the government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM), has come under fire for missing Alexis' troubling record. The fact of his security clearance also prompted questions about the government's increasing dependence on private firms, which may cut corners in the interest of profit-making.


According to a Reuters report Tuesday, instances of successfully falsified security clearance applications go far beyond just Alexis' case. Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations by private contractors, and that's just the thin slice of such incidents caught by the government. Reuters reported:

These are the cases government officials have cited to assert that action is taken against investigators who falsely claim to have reviewed records or done interviews for background checks submitted to OPM. Not all the cases identified a specific number of fabrications.

The 350 falsified reports represent only a small percentage of the number of background investigations conducted each year, either by OPM's own investigators or a handful of private contractors it uses for most of the work.

The Government Accountability Office testified to a congressional committee in June that OPM received over $1 billion to conduct more than 2 million background investigations for government employees in fiscal 2011.

But the details of the cases show how cracks in the system may allow employees to obtain clearances without proper vetting.

... USIS faces an ongoing investigation by OPM's inspector general. The company declined to comment for this story and OPM's inspector general's office would not comment on its probe.

Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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Aaron Alexis Background Checks Guns Navy Yard Shooting Opm Private Contractors Security Clearance Usis