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Contractor That Cleared Snowden Under Investigation

Tester, McCaskill reveal during Homeland Security hearing that contractor USIS may have botched background investigations

June 20, 2013

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Jon Tester (Mont.) and Claire McCaskill (Mo.) today co-chaired a Senate hearing in which it was revealed that the contracting firm which conducted Edward Snowden's background check for a security clearance is under active criminal investigation.

The hearing, which had representatives from several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and Office of Personnel Management, examined how the federal government conducts investigations to determine who is eligible for access to classified information.

Military service members, federal workers, and contract personnel must obtain a security clearance to gain access to classified material. In 2012, there were 3.5 million federal employees and 1.1 million contractors who held a Secret or Top Secret Clearance. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Investigative Services Division handles almost all background investigations for security clearances for federal agencies. OPM's security clearance and background investigations cost the federal government approximately $1 billion in 2012-a yearly cost that is expected to rise to $1.2 billion by 2014.

OPM spends 46 percent of its funds on the contractors who perform investigations. Approximately 75 percent of all field investigators are contractors-an estimated 4,600 out of 6,200 in total.

"Recent events have forced us all to take a closer look at the programs carried out in the name of national security and who has access to our nation's most sensitive data," said Tester, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Efficiency and Effectiveness of Federal Programs. "Given the increasing number of folks with access to that information, we have a real problem on our hands if we can't get this right. There is no margin for error."

"We know that USIS is a contractor under investigation, we know Snowden got his clearance from USIS-and we know that their investigation encompasses the time he received his clearance," said McCaskill, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. "We need answers."

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