Sen. Collins: ‘It Defies Belief’ That Navy Yard Shooter, Edward Snowden Were Given Security Clearances

The Maine Republican is calling for a “thorough congressional investigation” of the clearance system.

National Journal
Matt Berman
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Matt Berman
Sept. 19, 2013, 4:56 a.m.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber of the Sen­ate In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, blas­ted the se­cur­ity-clear­ance pro­cess for some gov­ern­ment con­tract­ors on Wed­nes­day, telling Na­tion­al Journ­al, “In both the case of the Navy Yard shoot­er and Ed­ward Snowden, it de­fies be­lief that they were giv­en se­cur­ity clear­ances, giv­en their back­grounds.”

The shoot­er at Wash­ing­ton’s Navy Yard was hired in Septem­ber 2012 by a sub­con­tract­or for Hew­lett-Pack­ard, where he was gran­ted secret-level clear­ance. Ed­ward Snowden, who leaked a trove of NSA doc­u­ments, was a con­tract­or and com­puter sys­tems ad­min­is­trat­or for Booz Al­len Hamilton. While the two cases are ob­vi­ously drastic­ally dif­fer­ent — no mat­ter how bad you think Snowden’s ac­tions were, he cer­tainly didn’t kill any­body — they high­light a grow­ing con­cern in Con­gress about ex­actly who is get­ting high-level se­cur­ity clear­ances, and how easy it may be for the wrong people to ac­quire them.

Sen. Collins isn’t the only per­son voicing such con­cern. On Wed­nes­day, four sen­at­ors sent a let­ter to In­spect­or Gen­er­al Patrick E. Mc­Far­land call­ing for an in­vest­ig­a­tion in­to how the Navy Yard shoot­er re­ceived his clear­ance. The sen­at­ors were par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in how he was able to get that clear­ance des­pite “his pat­terns of mis­con­duct.”

In an e-mail to Na­tion­al Journ­al, Collins also out­lined what she would like to hap­pen:

The first step is a thor­ough con­gres­sion­al in­vest­ig­a­tion. I’m hope­ful that the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee will ex­pand the work that we’re already do­ing to learn how Ed­ward Snowden was able to get such a high se­cur­ity clear­ance, and I’ve also talked to the Chair­man of the Home­land Se­cur­ity Com­mit­tee which has jur­is­dic­tion over the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment and en­cour­aged that com­mit­tee to take a look at wheth­er too much of this work is be­ing con­trac­ted out.

Sen­ate Home­land Se­cur­ity Chair­man Tom Carp­er, D-Del., told re­port­ers Wed­nes­day, “I think there’s real in­terest in fo­cus­ing on back­ground checks for con­tract­ors. We’re go­ing to drill down on this.” On Tues­day, the White House an­nounced that the Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Budget would be­gin a re­view of the se­cur­ity-clear­ance pro­cess for con­tract­ors and fed­er­al em­ploy­ees in co­ordin­a­tion with the Dir­ect­or of Na­tion­al In­tel­li­gence Of­fice and the Of­fice of Per­son­nel Man­age­ment.

It’s not yet cer­tain how far this will go, or how much Con­gress will be able to re­form the se­cur­ity-clear­ance pro­cess for con­tract­ors. But with 13 people dead, it’s hard to see this is­sue just fad­ing away.

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