I just heard a news story that made me sick to my stomach.
It seems that the contractor who hired the Navy Yard shooter (You know we don’t use names on this blog, because I won’t give killers publicity) as a computer professional, if he had known what he now knows at the time of his hiring. The owner of the contracting firm, The Experts, claims he relies on the military to perform the background check, although it’s uncertain whether that will help him or hurt him when the families of the victims sue him. Either way, whoever was supposed to do the background check missed a few things, such as an incident in 2004 in which he shot out a tire on a construction worker’s truck. Then, there was the time he shot his gun into the ceiling of his apartment in Fort Worth, Texas in 2010. If he had known these things at the beginning, he says he wouldn’t have hired the man.
This is the second time in several months that a contractor has been able to put someone into a secure position with a high security level at a secure government facility who probably shouldn’t have been there, and without a proper background check.
And no, I am not comparing Edward Snowden with a stone cold mass murderer. Even though I’m not a Snowden fan, he’s not a killer, at least as far as we know. The point I’m trying to make is, these incidents seem to indicate there’s a problem with contractor screening. Of course, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place if not for the trend toward privatizing everything the government does. We should not be privatizing national security in the first place, but if we’re going to, there should be one consistent layer of security.
I’ve been through the security process for temporary workers at the Navy Yard, as well as the State Department and the White House (passed every time!). I have also been witness to the security process for permanent workers at the White House, the State Department and the NSA, and the process is far different for short-term workers, and they shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t matter if the worker is going to be at the Navy Yard for a career or a week-long temp assignment, the men and women who put themselves on the line deserve more protection. And no one should qualify for a high security clearance if a Google search indicates some instability.
There is no way Snowden should have had access to thousands of top secret documents without a thorough screening, top to bottom. And there is no way the Navy Yard shooter should have been allowed through those gates with the criminal record he had. That no one caught those two incidents, and quite possibly several others, is inexcusable. The people who work at the Navy Yard are there to keep our country safe; they deserve more protection.
And I understand that argument that it’s difficult, expensive and time consuming to do a background check on every single employee for every single contractor working at the NSA or the Navy Yard. That makes sense. It’s also why we shouldn’t be privatizing government operations. Staff the government with career civil servants who are loyal, and you have less of these problems. This isn’t hard to figure out.