Background reports on Navy Yard shooter, NSA leaker, truckers from same company

By Kevin Jones on

The government contractor that performed the background check on Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis in 2007 and that also vetted NSA leaker Edward Snowden is part of the same company that handles DAC reports for the trucking industry.magglass

USIS, which is under criminal investigation over whether it misled the government about the thoroughness of its background checks, said early last week that it had not handled Alexis’s case, but on Thursday a company spokesman admitted otherwise, The Washington Post reports.

USIS, aka US Investigations Services LLC, is currently the largest contractor doing security background checks for the federal government. USIS and DAC-provider HireRight Solutions Inc. merged in August 2008, creating “the largest employment screening company in the world,” according to the merger announcement.

The firm, which was spun off from the federal government in the 1990s, handles about 45 percent of all background checks for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, according to the Post report.  There is no indication that USIS did anything improper in the Alexis check, the story adds.

Still, a cottage industry has emerged to contest the data sold by HireRight , which specializes in background screening for transportation jobs.  And last year the company agreed to pay $2.6 million to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The government said HireRight failed to use reasonable procedures to assure the maximum possible accuracy of information it provided and failed to reinvestigate consumer disputes, as required by law.

The case represented the first time the FTC has charged an employment background screening firm with violating the FCRA, and resulted in the second largest civil penalty that the FTC has obtained under the Act, the agency said. In addition to the penalty, the settlement put provisions in place to change how HireRight was to do business going forward.

Still, when it comes to vetting applicants for security clearance, maybe the process isn’t so thorough as it is in trucking.

Government officials, according to the Post, said the Alexis background check did uncover a 2004 incident in which he shot out the tires of a car, but that incident was characterized as “malicious mischief.” Additionally, the government’s security clearance process is not designed to flag people struggling with mental illness, experts say.

Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones is Senior Editor, Trucking Media, and writes from his home in Little Rock, Ark. His Fleet Street blog features whatever strikes his fancy and has at least a little connection to trucks, or drivers, or highways. Or David Allan Coe. (Google "the perfect country and western song" if you're not nearly as old as Kevin is.) You can also keep up with Kevin by following his Twitter feed (@KevinJonesCCJ) or just drop him a line: kevin.jones@randallreilly.com.

4 comments
GayleG
GayleG

To me the larger question is one of effectiveness.  The last sentence of this article points out the sad truth that the clearance procedures will not flag potential problem employees.  They can tell you what people did, but not what they are going to do. Mental health can change very quickly - how many incidents have happened in the last few years where friends and neighbors had no clue that perpetrators were having issues, or had no concept of the magnitude of stress?

DavidMac
DavidMac

In the late 1980s - early 1990s, we (not my current employer) used USIS to do some pre-employment background checks.  I ran a test on them using a known felon who had served prison time with two felony convictions, including felony assault.  USIS failed to pick up on ANY convictions and told us he had no criminal record.

Shannaf
Shannaf

@DavidMac Who are you using now? I resently had the same problem with USIS and need to make a change.

DavidMac
DavidMac

I'm out of the pre-employment background investigation business.  The company I worked for was a private investigations firm and we did the usual background/due diligence/asset searches.  We used USIS for out-of-state cases for a while but also used in-house investigators (I was one of those).  As I indicated, that was over 20 years ago.  The firm focused on corporate fraud and general investigative services.  I was the one who dye-tested USIS just to see if they could pick up on a convicted criminal (I had previously done a pre-employment check on the subject and had an extensive amount of information).  USIS uses contract investigators by region.  USIS admitted some of them did shoddy work.

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