A massive backlog of government security clearance reviews has led to "murderers" and "rapists" being able to access potentially sensitive national secrets, The Associated Press reports. With a 700,000-person review pileup, even agencies like the Defense Department have "inadvertently issue[d] interim passes to criminals," AP writes.
More than 4.3 million people have government security clearance to some degree, with 3 million people at the "confidential" level and more than a million people with "top secret" access. In addition to federal employees, many with clearance are private contractors.
The pileup stems from the fact that there is no quick and thorough way to check someone's background. Additionally, the government broke off a contract with a company that helped it do investigations back in 2014 after a security breach. Now, in an effort simply to get things done, the government has been issuing interim clearances, but those too prove to be minefields.
"I've got murderers who have access to classified information," said U.S. Defense Security Service director Dan Payne. "I have rapists. I have pedophiles. I have people involved in child porn. I have all these things at the interim clearance level and I'm pulling their clearances on a weekly basis."
The Defense Department is already exploring alternative ways to improve vetting its employees and contractors. A new system of "continuous evaluation" has led to 48 people losing their clearances, The Associated Press reports.
Vetting "is one of these processes that have been unchanged for decades," explained the Marine Corp's director of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Michael Groen. "It's screaming for a different way to do business." Read the full report here.