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Did flaws in the military security process lead to massacre, leaks?

12 were killed in a Navy Yard shooting in September of 2013. Large amounts of classified information were leaked to media outlets. Two separate offenders were accused of these offenses. Although these two men have very different backgrounds, they had one thing in common: both had been granted military security clearance privileges.

This clearance allowed each man a certain level of access that most civilians do not have. In order to receive this level of clearance, the men had to undergo and pass a rigorous security clearance process. The fact that both men abused their privileges in such an extreme manner is causing the U.S. intelligence community to make adjustments in the security clearance process, according to a recent report by The Hill.

Was the system flawed?

According to the U.S. Department of State, the current process requires completion of the appropriate security questionnaire and other forms, making up a security package. This package is reviewed by the Department of State's Office of Personnel Security and Suitability. Record and fingerprint checks are then conducted and a face-to-face interview is scheduled. Investigators also may interview neighbors, supervisors and classmates in addition to the provided references.

If unfavorable conduct is discovered, the seriousness of the conduct, relevancy and likelihood of recurrence are all examined along with a number of other factors. A past DUI or other criminal conviction could result in this type of treatment. This could lead to denial, revocation or suspension of a service member's security clearance. In these instances, a security clearance appeal may be advisable.

The process used for both Aaron Alexis and Edward Snowden, the men accused of the crimes listed above, relied on a combination of government worker efforts and contractors to approve clearance. Critics are pointing to the use of contractors to run background checks as a major flaw in the system. One contracting company used for the majority of background checks, USIS, is undergoing a criminal investigation for its work on Snowden's clearance application.

How potential changes could impact the security clearance process.

U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill announced in a statement earlier this year that Alexis also received a background check by USIS. This connection likely contributed to Senator McCaskill's announcement in a recent press release that a complete “top-to-bottom overhaul” of the security clearance process is needed.

Recommended revisions could include revamped investigations and a new approach to background checks.

Legal representation can help.

If you require security clearance in order to further your military career, legal counsel can help to better ensure your application is approved whether or not these changes are implemented. Contact an experienced military security clearance attorney to discuss your needs and better ensure your application is approved.

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