Senate Bill Proposes Random Audits Of Security ClearancesLegislation would scour public and commercial databases for signs of trouble among federal workers holding security clearances.
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Senate lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at strengthening the government's security clearance process using automated data searches. The legislation would task the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to set up an automated review process that would search public records and databases for information on every individual who holds a security clearance, at random intervals, but at least twice every five years.
The Enhanced Security Clearance Act of 2013 was introduced by Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) in response to classified information leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and the September shootings at the Navy Yard by a contractor.
If enacted, the new legislation would expand on a database of employees and contractors, established by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which identifies individuals who require access to classified information. OPM would be responsible for auditing the records of security clearance holders. It would use automated tools to search for information that would be added to the database, gleaned from a variety of sources, including government records, major consumer reporting agencies, publicly available and commercial data sources, and social media.
The information to be gathered would include everything from bankruptcy proceedings, lien filings, mortgage fraud and "high-value assets ... obtained by the covered individual from an unknown source." It would also catalog public information such as news stories and look for derogatory information posted to social media websites that "may suggest ill intent, vulnerability to blackmail, compulsive behavior, allegiance to another country or change in ideology" of the individual, according to the bill.
[ It looks like there's good reason for this bill. See Think Hackers Are IT's Biggest Threat? Guess Again. ]
"There are systemic failures in the current process that are jeopardizing our ability to protect our nation's secrets and our secure facilities," McCaskill said in a press release. "Senator Collins and I aren't ones to identify a problem and just talk about it – we are determined to offer concrete solutions, and that's what this bill is all about."
McCaskill is chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight, and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Collins serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Heitkamp and Ayotte both hold seats on the Homeland Security Committee.
A number of law enforcement, professional and corporate associations have endorsed the legislation, including the Federal Managers Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the technology industry trade association TechAmerica.
"This legislation is a critical step forward in updating the security clearance process that must reflect not only the current environment, but also the many technological advances that are available to those maintaining our nation's security," said Trey Hodgkins, TechAmerica senior VP, Global Public Sector, in a statement and in letters of support sent to all four senators.
"Industry agrees that when someone applies to be considered for a position of trust, whether contractor or government employee, that a thorough examination of their past and present activities, including their digital and paper trails, is in all of our best interests."