By Tabassum Zakaria
WASHINGTON, Sept 19 The same company that
scrutinized former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden for a
U.S. government security clearance said on Thursday it also
checked the background of the Navy Yard shooter, allowing him to
obtain a "secret" clearance.
USIS, working as a contractor for the Office of Personnel
Management (OPM), conducted a background review of Aaron Alexis,
identified by law enforcement authorities as the shooter who
killed 12 people at the Navy Yard before he was shot dead.
"Today we were informed that in 2007, USIS conducted a
background check of Aaron Alexis for OPM," USIS spokesman Ray
Howell said in a statement.
He did not provide additional information. "We are
contractually prohibited from retaining case information
gathered as part of the background checks we conduct for OPM and
therefore are unable to comment further on the nature or scope
of this or any other background check," Howell said.
Earlier this year, USIS became the focus of congressional
scrutiny when it was disclosed that the company handled the
background investigation of Snowden, accused of disclosing top
secret materials taken from the National Security Agency
facility where he worked.
"From Edward Snowden to Aaron Alexis, what's emerging is a
pattern of failure on the part of this company, and a failure of
this entire system, that risks nothing less than our national
security and the lives of Americans," Senator Claire McCaskill
said in a statement Thursday.
"What's most frightening is that USIS performs a majority of
background checks for our government. We clearly need a
top-to-bottom overhaul of how we vet those who have access to
our country's secrets and to our secure facilities," she said.
McCaskill, who heads the Senate Subcommittee on Financial
and Contracting Oversight, said USIS does about 65 percent of
all background check investigations conducted by government
contractors and more than half of those conducted by the OPM.
Earlier this week OPM said it had identified a 2004 arrest
for malicious mischief during the background review for Alexis,
and the Defense Department granted his security clearance in
That Alexis had a "secret" security clearance and maintained
it despite several violent episodes before and after the
clearance was issued has reinvigorated lawmakers' calls for a
review of how security clearances are issued.
USIS has been undergoing an investigation by OPM's inspector
general since before the Snowden and Alexis incidents. OPM's
inspector general's office had no comment.
USIS is owned by a larger investigative company called
Altegrity, which in turn is principally owned by
private equity firm Providence Equity Partners.