A former deputy secretary of Defense under Bill Clinton. John Hamre tells Scott Pelley on 60 Minutes in a show to be aired Sunday that the U.S. security clearance process is obsolete and we already have spies in our government.
“We have spies in our midst. I’m convinced of it,” says Hamre, who also chairs the Defense Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon. “Our system is very obsolete in my view.” An internal government memo obtained by 60 Minutes warns the process could contain “systemic problems.”
If you don’t read one more word of this post, check out the video clip below which exposed the blatant incompetence. It is shocking.
CBS News obtained an internal memo by OPM, the Office of Personnel Management, that oversees most government security investigations. The Inspector General wrote that they were glaringly deficient, specifically in investigating Edward Snowden.
OPM became famous when their data was breached and 22 million records were hacked this past summer. The director Katherine Archuleta was fired but she had only been in office for less than two years. The most deeply personal records of federal employees, including very high level employees and former employees like Dick Cheney were infiltrated. It was the worst government cyber-attack in US history.
Many believe the information will be used as part of an enormous database by foreign intelligence, perhaps China.
Beyond firing Archuleta, nothing has been done yet.
John Hamre, now the head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, tried without much success to push the Pentagon to amend its approach to classification and to clearance.
One problem that seems easily solvable is the ten-year time span between investigations.
“Few of the many U.S. citizens who have betrayed their country over the last 50 years entered government service with the intent to commit espionage. People and their circumstances change through time. Thus, while a background investigation may provide solid information regarding an individual’s past, it can never reliably predict future conduct. Nor should we expect it to; there is a limited life history and range of experience on which to base a judgment. Inevitably, some public servants will during the course of their careers see their marriages fail, develop a dependence on drugs or alcohol, overextend themselves financially, become disgruntled employees, etc. Of these, only very small percentages—yet still too many in absolute terms—become serious security risks. The five to 10 years between clearance reinvestigations is far too long to wait to detect such developments.”
The problems have been known for some time and little has been done to fix them, aside from shortening the time it takes to get a security clearance.
One of the problems familiar to anyone who has been interviewed for a security clearance is that most of the personnel involved are, to be polite, not the crack folks from any organization or company. Some are very young and inexperienced. Some are retired government employees on their second career, according to Breaking Defense.
Applicants fill out a form on which they can lie and not get caught. Chelsea Elizabeth Manning, born Bradley Edward Manning, was one such case, having lied about his mental health background. There is also a cultural problem in the organization. It’s likely they don’t generally fire bad employees.
Edward Snowden worked for the CIA and left there under a cloud that convinced the agency to put a red flag in his file. But when his security clearance was later reviewed, after he took a contract position with the NSA, he said his past employment was “classified” and the clearance investigator did not check with the CIA, CBS News reported in a preview of the show.
As an aside, Snowden is hoping to vote in the 2016 election in the US while he is still exiled in Russia. He wouldn’t say which candidate he’d vote for. People have reason to be grateful for the information Snowden revealed but nonetheless, he did not go the route of the whistleblower, he went to communist Hong Kong and then Russia.
The problem of contractors is a serious one.
Recently, Iranian-American Mozaffar Khazee,who held dual citizenship, used his position as a mechanical engineer at Pratt & Whitney to send “highly sensitive” information about military jet engines to Iran, The Hartford Courant reported.
He’s a spy for Iran who was hoping to land a professorship in Iran and sent documents related to the US Joint Strike Fighter program to Iran. He was sentenced to eight years but we don’t know how many don’t get caught.
A report that came out in March, 2014 listed the many areas needing improvement but they were the same areas cited in 1999, Hamre said.