The contractor responsible for vetting Edward Snowden in 2011, already under a criminal investigation for "routine" background check failures, was also responsible for vetting Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis in 2007. After initially denying involvement, USIS did some digging and discovered that it did, in fact, run the background check for Alexis's secret-level clearance.
In a statement, USIS spokesman Ray Howell explained the new development:
"Today we were informed that in 2007, USIS conducted a background check of Aaron Alexis...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.”
A number of outlets asked the agency about its potential involvement in vetting Alexis soon after the shooting, as questions were raised about how a man with a history of gun-related arrests could be cleared by the system.
USIS is the largest private company running background checks from the U.S., handling about 45 percent of requests from the Office of Personnel Management. The OPM said late on Thursday, however, that it didn't see anything wrong with Alexis's background check, upon review. "The agency believes that the file was complete and in compliance with all investigative standards," it said in a statement.
The process of screening government contractors has come under increasing scrutiny since Edward Snowden leaked the NSA's secrets to the world. Snowden, a contractor, had top-secret clearance. That concern has led the intelligence agency to pledge a near-elimination of Snowden's old job — eliminating up to 90 percent of its system administrators in the near future. But it's also raised a wider concern about the vetting process itself, among other agencies of government. Alexis's clearance, which allowed him legitimate access to the Navy Yard facilities, will only heighten the urgency of those questions for the administration. The White House announced a security review for private contractors after the shooting.