Edward Snowden, the 29-year old contract computer technician who leaked details of the National Security Agency broad data-gathering about Americans' telephone calls and online communications, may not have been properly investigated for his security clearance, a government watchdog told lawmakers Thursday.
"We do believe there may be some problems" with the reinvestigation of Mr. Snowden when his clearance was renewed in 2011, Patrick E. McFarland, the inspector general for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, told a Senate hearing.
Mr. Snowden's "Top Secret" clearance has come under scrutiny since he fled to Hong Kong from the NSA facility where he worked in Hawaii, taking with him a still-unknown number of highly classified documents.
Those with such clearances are subject to periodic reinvestigation to ensure that they are still eligible. For about a decade, most background investigations and re-investigations for the U.S. government have been contracted out to the private sector.
But the private contractor that carried out Mr. Snowden's reinvestigation, Falls Church, Va.-based USIS, is itself under investigation, officials said.
USIS has been under investigation since late 2011 in a "complicated contract fraud case," Michelle B. Schmitz, the office's assistant inspector general for investigations, told the hearing, without providing any details.
"USIS has never been informed that it is under criminal investigation," a company statement said. It added that the company had received a subpoena for records from the inspector general's office in January 2012.
"USIS complied with that subpoena and has cooperated fully with the government's civil investigative efforts," the statement said.
The news came as Reuters reported that hiring screeners at Booz Allen Hamilton, the contractor that supplied Mr. Snowden to the NSA, found possible discrepancies in his resume but employed him anyway.
Citing "a source with detailed knowledge of the matter," the news agency reported Thursday that Mr. Snowden was hired earlier this year after he convinced the screeners that his description of his education was truthful.
Nearly 5 million Americans have security clearances at the "Secret" level, just more than a million of them contractors, according to January figures from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Of the 1.4 million who have higher "Top Secret" clearances, more than a third or just under half a million work for contractors.
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