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DOJ brings fraud charges on background check firm that cleared Snowden

The Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Wednesday filed a lawsuit [text, PDF] alleging fraud against the background check firm, United States Investigations Services (USIS) [corporate website]. USIS was contracted by the DOJ to perform background checks on individuals at varying levels. The DOJ alleges the USIS faked more than 665,000 background checks they were contracted to perform between March 2008 and September 2012. This number accounts for almost 40 percent of the total background checks USIS performed in that period. The complaint alleges the practice of "dumping" detailed as:

"Beginning in at least March 2008 and continuing through at least September 2012, USIS management devised and executed a scheme to deliberately circumvent contractually required quality reviews of completed background investigations in order to increase the company's revenues and profits. Specifically, USIS devised a practice referred to internally as "dumping" or "flushing," which involved releasing cases to OPM and representing them as complete when, in fact, not all ROIs comprising those cases had received a quality review as required by the Fieldwork Contracts. USIS engaged in the practice of dumping in order to meet budgeted goals and, therefore, increase its revenues and profits. Given that USIS was paid by OPM for each completed case, the more cases USIS completed each month the more money it received from OPM."
The complaint further details that the DOJ paid USIS anywhere from $95 to $2,500 per background check, totaling about $11.7 million. The DOJ is seeking damages including interest for the "dumped" background checks.

This is the latest development in the fall-out surrounding the Edward Snowden leaks regarding the US National Security Agency (NSA) [official website] surveillance programs [JURIST backgrounder]. These revelations have sparked worldwide debate and controversy [JURIST op-eds]. The programs have also sparked a prolonged constitutional debate [JURIST op-ed]. Last month, UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] stated that he plans to launch an investigation [JURIST report] into the surveillance activities of the NSA and the GCHQ. US Senators announced new legislation [JURIST report] in September in a bipartisan effort to reform surveillance laws. Earlier that month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] urged the Obama administration [JURIST report] to curb the FBI's surveillance powers, despite the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's [official website] release of a previously classified opinion justifying [JURIST report] the need for the NSA's surveillance program.

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