Every federal employee is scrutinized prior to and during employment. An initial background investigation is conducted to determine, among many things, a person’s loyalty to the United States, work ethic, character, and associations with others. Many people believe this process is cumbersome and sometimes excessive, and they may minimize the activity and try to avoid giving testimony. However, federal employees must understand the importance of an employee background investigation (BI).
There are many reasons why a BI should be taken seriously. Without a diligent investigation some employees may end up working with another who is dishonest or not suited to the position for which hired. BIs always have been of utmost importance for security reasons, but since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks the backgrounds of not only federal employees but others in sensitive positions in public and private organizations have taken an even more serious note. National security means more than just a spy in the closet; now it is thwarting a hidden explosive device or weapon of mass destruction to kill as many people as possible.
United States counterterrorism organizations know that terror groups are actively attempting to place extremists in positions in sensitive government and private locations to do harm. Terror groups strive to infiltrate government intelligence, law enforcement and other security positions. Government facilities and private locations like power plants and water dams are all targets for terror groups. International terror organizations are anxious to infiltrate group members into American society.
Since 9/11 the question of legal and illegal immigration has taken a more serious note, notwithstanding the appearance that U.S. Congress places more focus on potential voters than national security. The September 11th attackers were all legally in the United States on temporary visas. Furthermore, employers are finding that illegal immigrants, through various means, are employed in sensitive positions.
In 2007, The Washington Post reported that a Milwaukee, WI police officer was arrested when it was determined he was an illegal alien. The officer had taken the identity of a deceased cousin and later pled guilty to a felony for claiming he was a United States citizen. Recently, another police officer in Anchorage, AK also was found to be an illegal alien. Although neither officer appears to have been a national security risk, both have placed criminal and civil court cases in jeopardy by falsely identifying themselves.
In 2007, Nada Nadim Prouty, a Lebanese national pled guilty to charges of fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and to conspiracy to defraud the United States. She used her citizenship to obtain employment at different times with the FBI and CIA. Reportedly during her employment she unlawfully made computer queries of her relatives and the terrorist organization Hizballah.
In 2009, The Huffington Post reported that the infiltration and corruption of American law enforcement is a national security problem that does not yet have a name. The Post further reported that traitors among us are wearing federal law enforcement uniforms patrolling the U.S. border while corrupt local officers are patrolling elsewhere.
Some potential national security risks are not yet of age. In 2010, The Washington Post reported a new significance to American citizenship. Reportedly there are dozens of U.S. based businesses which provide birthing services to expectant Chinese mothers. Since anyone born in the U.S. is deemed a U.S. citizen Chinese nationals travel to and stay in the United States long enough to give birth. Reportedly the point of the U.S. birth is to circumvent China’s one child per family rule and to secure the benefits of American citizenship later in life. To some, American citizenship in the 21st century has little to do with loyalty. I suspect more sinister reasons for U.S. citizenship are yet to be realized.
An employment background investigation is one of the vertebrae of national security efforts. Cooperation is a must to not only protect yourself and co-workers, but your family and country. Federal and local government employees or anyone called to give testimony during a BI must understand the consequences if contact is avoided or information is withheld.
John F. Hein is an adjunct instructor of criminal justice for the American Public University System and a retired executive of the former U.S. Customs Service. He served over thirty years in civilian and military security and law enforcement agencies. He is a member of ASIS International, an association of security professionals, and is a Certified Protection Professional (CPP). He is the author of Inside Internal Affairs: An In-Depth Look at the People, Process and Politics, published by Looseleaf Law Publications, Inc.