Calling All Counterterrorism Professionals, Part 3
This morning’s installment selects an e-mail from a retired government worker who did not labor in the vineyards of intelligence but in a field of immense importance to national security, and whose reflections on a related matter are very relevant to the prospect of regularizing tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from countries with long established jihadist networks:
I’m not in the counterintel business, but a former government worker in the NNSA (Nat’l nuclear security admin), which is responsible for the nuclear weapons program and includes facilities such as LANL, LLNL, Sandia, and Y-12 (Oak Ridge). I was employed at KCP (www.kcp.com), which is responsible for production of the bulk of the non-fissile components in our nuclear weapons. I possessed a “Q” clearance, requiring a 10-year background check.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the OPM handles most/all of the gov’t background checks (or farms them out to third parties). Among the comments I have RE: these checks and other security/oversight are:
1. at KCP, it took 6 months when I hired in for the typical person to clear. After 9/11, that jumped up to 18 months and we were told a bunch of clearances in other parts of the gov’t were being “rerun”. There were no visible changes to the process, no changes to the forms (which by the way appear identical to forms I’ve seen on TV for other types of gov’t clearances so I’ll assume there nominally identical and most differences between them more bureaucratic in nature). That 18 month wait remained the status quo until I terminated my employment at KCP. The obvious questions that fall out of that:
a. Were the previous background checks back when the wait was only 6 months half-assed?
b. If the answer to question a is no, then what’s with the change to an 18 month waiting period (since nothing else about the process on the surface had changed)? Are there OPM resources that are being redirected into other activities? Are more categories of people being checked by OPM? If yes, to these 2 questions, why wasn’t an appropriate increase of OPM resources (i.e. personnel) made to keep the clearance time in check.
The most frustrating thing about all this is that once they start your background check, it only takes about 1 month to complete it and that’s for us low-level serfs. Incidentally, this is probably why they couldn’t pass a bill where everyone had 30 days or less to register and/or leave the country or any of the other similar type proposal proffered. The gov’t simply isn’t set up to process that many people that fast (think Katrina but in paperwork terms).
2. I’d love to know how many people w/ clearances have histories similar to Jessica Quintana (http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1612912,00.html). I personally know of 1- an engineer, who at the time of their background check already had a DUI and admitted to past occasional pot-smoking. During their background check process, this engineer earned a second DUI which they reported to the OPM folks. This person still received their Q, albeit after significant questioning and psychological testing. This engineer I know is a good engineer, one of the better ones I know of in their age group, but I cannot understand how they have any clearance whatsoever no matter how hard I try.
3. My last point isn’t related to security but oversight- we had a contract employee w/ a Procurement card, which was intended for business related credit card purchases. This individual let his wife use it as her own personal credit card. Contractor was reprimanded and told not to do it again and repay all the misappropriated funds. Soon after, contractor and wife continued their misdeeds. I believe the total $$$$ involved was in the 10s of thousands. Personally, I would have thrown the federal book at the gentleman and his wife and made it clear to all employees w/ a procurement card that they would suffer the same fate if they did likewise. Unfortunately, KCP did not go down that road, presumably because it would get public attention and make KCP look like it wasn’t running a tight ship. All they did was take the contractor’s card away, put something in his employment jacket, and make all the other employees w/cards take a whole bunch of training about proper conduct w/procurement cards.
Where point #3 is relevant, IMO, is that the federal gov’t simply does not have the capacity to dole out the proper punishment to the offending parties, dovetailing well with the immigration bill’s language and allowances for those that entered this country illegally.
My grandfather was an impoverished pre-WWI European emigrant who was a legal immigrant to this country and had a long, happy life that was comfortable but not easy (not due to his immigrant status but rather the era of his primary bread-earning capabilities, as he was born in 1904). His son, my father, has been extremely successful and his brother, my uncle, lives in Hawaii (’nuff said). The great thing about this country is that it is easy for people and their offspring to come here and be largely successful w/o robbing the existing citizenry. Furthermore, as you pointed out, the immigration bill will do nothing to catch the serious risks coming in and Cherthoff is the biggest empty suit I’ve seen in a long time. IMO, once you’ve had someone on your show spout the BS he has recently, you shouldn’t have him on anymore because he’s either an idiot or is perfectly comfortable putting false information out to the public and you shouldn’t be in a business that facilitates either putting false information into public or idiots (or both, grin). JMHO.
He’s right about OPM doing most of the government’s background checks, and doing them very slowly. (I was the Deputy Director and General Counsel of the agency from 1986 until early 1989, and the problems with our investigations division were immense. Good people, just too many investigations to do.) My understanding is that the DHS and not OPM will be doing the “background checks” on the illegal immigrants, which is an absurd joke because (1) they are not trained to do such things as the OPM investigators and the FBI are, and (2) these “checks” will be little more than scans of the numbers provided –if any– by the illegal on their application for a Z Visa. Millions of people will turn in papers and return to get their new papers in 48 hours. Among them will be the jihadist plants discussed in posts 1 and 2.
Welcome aboard. Feel free to move about the country.