Agencies Defend New Contract for Firm That Vetted Snowden and Navy Yard Shooter

Edward Snowden's face is shown on an outdoor screen in Hong Kong in 2013. Edward Snowden's face is shown on an outdoor screen in Hong Kong in 2013. Vincent Yu/AP file photo

The Homeland Security Department has hired a contractor to perform immigration services at a time when the company is being sued by the Justice Department and is under attack on Capitol Hill for awarding bonuses to executives who are accused of delivering incomplete security clearance background checks to the government.

U.S. Investigations Services, a Falls Church, Va.-based company that performs the largest share of contracted background investigations for the Office of Personnel Management, has also been criticized for having vetted, among thousands of contractor employees possessing security clearances, Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor now in exile for leaking materials on domestic surveillance, and Aaron Alexis, the now-deceased contractor who fatally shot a dozen federal employees at the Washington Navy Yard last September.

On July 1, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of Homeland Security that oversees lawful immigration to the United States, announced the award of the recompeted Field Operations Support Services contract to USIS “in response to a competitive full and open competition solicitation that lasted 18 months,” a department official said in an email. “The contracting officer determined that USIS was a responsible offeror as they currently stand. The System for Award Management was searched to ensure that USIS did not have any active exclusions [was not suspended or debarred], and no exclusions were reported or identified.”

The department stressed that it takes “allegations of wrongdoing against its work force and contractors extremely seriously. At this time there is no conduct that has resulted in suspension or debarment of USIS.”

That position was echoed by an OPM spokeswoman, who said, “At this time we are satisfied with the steps taken by USIS to deal with actions by their employees and previous leadership. Additionally, working in coordination with our inspector general, OPM has removed several individuals from [OPM’s security clearance] contract. We have increased our oversight and will continue to monitor closely the work done by USIS and all of our contractors.”

A spokesman for USIS declined comment.

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