WASHINGTON — Investigators warned last week of a potential national-security threat at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission resulting from a policy that does not penalize employees who fail to disclose criminal and financial improprieties.
The NRC inspector general urged the agency to establish “consequences” for employees who fail to report circumstances such as past arrests and chronic financial debt. It is unclear whether agency leaders plan to create disciplinary procedures for related lapses by its personnel, who can receive access to sensitive data or nuclear substances in the course of their work.
NRC employees “rarely comply with personnel reporting responsibilities” that require them in part to disclose if they are alcoholics or dealers of illegal drugs, the inspector general said in a report dated Sept. 12. The authors examined materials from 35 re-investigations of NRC employees, and found over two dozen files with evidence of incidents that “should have been reported” to NRC security officials, the document states.
“Certain types of information must be assiduously protected,” the auditors warned. “When a person’s actions show evidence of unreliability or untrustworthiness, questions arise [about] whether the person can be relied on to protect classified information.”
Leaks of such data can result in death and “irreparable damage” to national security, they wrote. The report does not detail precise circumstances under which commission employees might receive access to sensitive materials.
The inspector general separately advised the commission to begin regularly reminding staffers of potentially compromising situations they must disclose. Employees presently only receive such a rundown immediately after are hired, according to the assessment.
Making sure that personnel take note of the reminders is also crucial, the report adds. “NRC issues many announcements,” but the agency “does not track whether employees are actually reading the announcements issued,” auditors said.
Senior NRC officials last week expressed “general agreement” with the auditors’ recommendations, but the report does not indicate whether they plan to implement the moves. The IG office on Sept. 12 asked the commission’s operations chief to report within 30 days on any actions being taken in response to the findings.
What We're Following See More »
First, it was Sean Spicer. Then Reince Priebus. Now, presidential adviser Steve Bannon, perhaps the administration's biggest lightning rod for criticism, is out. “White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve’s last day,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement. “We are grateful for his service and wish him the best.” That's not to say the parting of ways isn't controversial. Bannon says he submitted his resignation on Aug. 7, but earlier today, "the president had told senior aides that he had decided to remove Mr. Bannon."
"The Trump administration has ended Operation Choke Point, the anti-fraud initiative started under the Obama administration that many Republicans argued was used to target gun retailers and other businesses that Democrats found objectionable. Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd told GOP representatives in a Wednesday letter that the long-running program had ended, bringing a conclusion to a chapter in the Obama years that long provoked and angered conservatives who saw Choke Point as an extra-legal crackdown on politically disfavored groups."
"Liberal groups are raising questions about a speaking appearance Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch plans to make next month at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. Gorsuch is scheduled to headline a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of conservative group The Fund for American Studies on September 28, days before the next SCOTUS term begins October 2. Steve Slattery, a spokesman for The Fund for American Studies, said Gorsuch had nothing to do with venue choice, which was made long before the group asked Gorsuch to speak."
"The Trump administration has lost a handful of individuals serving in top cybersecurity roles across the federal government in recent weeks, even as it has struggled to fill high-ranking IT positions. The developments present hurdles for the new administration and speak to the longstanding challenge the federal government faces in competing with the private sector for top tech talent." Among those resigning is Richard Staropoli, "a former U.S. Secret Service agent who served as chief information officer (CIO) of the Department of Homeland Security for just three months," and Dave DeVries, the CIO at OPM. Separately, the White House announced today that President Trump has directed that United States Cyber Command be elevated to the status of a Unified Combatant Command focused on cyberspace operations.