Bloomberg News is reporting tonight that the same contractor that vetted NSA leaker Edward Snowden also did the background check on Aaron Alexis.

The U.S. government contractor that vetted Edward Snowden, who leaked information about national surveillance programs, said it also performed a background check on the Washington Navy Yard shooter.

USIS, a unit of Falls Church, Virginia-based Altegrity Inc., did Aaron Alexis’s background investigation in 2007, Ray Howell, a USIS spokesman, said in an e-mail.

“Today we were informed that in 2007, USIS conducted a background check of Aaron Alexis” for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Howell said.

USIS came under scrutiny in June after an inspector general for the Office of Personnel Management testified for a Senate hearing that there may have been problems with the security clearance background check that was conducted on Edward Snowden.

USIS earlier defended its work in the case of Snowden, saying that it was the government’s responsibility to approve or deny Snowden’s clearance, according to an August Wall Street Journal report.

USIS declined to discuss the federal review on Tuesday. But it said Wednesday that a Wall Street Journal article painted “an inaccurate view” of its role in the case. While USIS said it couldn’t “refute or verify” the government’s conclusions, the company said in a statement the federal government didn’t raise any concerns at the time about its work in February 2011 on the five-year “periodic reinvestigation” of Mr. Snowden. The company said the NSA, not USIS, was ultimately responsible for approving or denying Mr. Snowden’s security clearance.

But in an accompanying report to a review by U.S. intelligence officials of Snowden’s background check, it said the check failed to include interviews with Snowden’s former CIA co-workers and check one of his references, among other things, according to NBC News.

Since the Navy Yard shooting, as more details have emerged about Aaron Alexis, many of course have asked how Alexis passed the checks for a security clearance.  NBC reports that he received his initial security clearance in March 2008.

As the Washington Post points out, background checks aren’t necessarily always foolproof.  Things like not being a US citizen or receiving a dishonorable discharge from the military can get you disqualified, and a felony conviction could hold up an application if not disqualify you.  But that wasn’t the case with Alexis, according to the Post.

Alexis, of course, was both a U.S. citizen and a former Navy reservist who received an honorable discharge from the military. He was also never charged for incidents in 2004 and 2010 in which he shot out a car’s tires and fired a shot through the ceiling of his apartment into an upstairs neighbor’s dwelling.

Alexis’ mental health problems however were reported to the Navy, and it is not known why this didn’t raise any flags in allowing Alexis to keep his security clearance.

NBC News reports that the DOJ has expanded an existing investigation to include a review of Alexis’ case.

There are a still a lot of details we don’t know yet in the case of Aaron Alexis.  But we do know from the case of Edward Snowden that the system probably could use some scrutiny – whether that’s placed on the contractors performing the checks or on the government, or both.


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