Workers for Contractors at Government Lab Used Dead People's SSNs

Terry Jeffrey

7/20/2011 12:01:00 AM - Terry Jeffrey

Two employees of contractors working at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory used dead peoples' Social Security numbers, according to DOE's Office of Inspector General.

Four others used Social Security numbers the government has not yet issued, and two shared the same Social Security number.

The fact that workers for contractors at DOE's Berkeley lab were misusing Social Security numbers -- and thus, by definition, working under false identities -- was revealed in a report DOE's IG completed on April 15.

That means it came almost six years after the same IG's office revealed -- as reported in this column on June 23, 2005 -- that it had discovered that 16 illegal aliens had been working for contractors at DOE's Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tenn.

"The mission of Y-12 includes the manufacture of nuclear weapons components; weapons dismantlement, storage, and evaluation; and, the warehousing of enriched uranium material," the IG had explained in a June 14, 2005, report.

"Specifically, we determined 16 foreign construction workers were illegal aliens," said the report. "Some of these workers acquired facility access badges and were permitted access to the main Y-12 site, and others were permitted access to an adjacent Y-12 leased facility. Certain information associated with the construction of the Y-12 leased facility, which was planned to store documents up to the Secret-Restricted Data level, was considered Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (UCNI) and Official Use Only (OUO). Consequently, these individuals may have had opportunities to inappropriately access this type of information."

"Also," said the report, "we learned that the Office of Counterintelligence was not aware of the presence of foreign construction workers at the Y-12 leased facility until notified by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) during this inspection."

As a result of the IG's discovery, Y-12 officials reportedly revamped their access policy.

"Y-12 officials issued a revised access policy entitled 'Citizenship Verification Requirements for Access to the Y-12 National Security Complex,'" said the IG's report. "The revised policy addressed the concerns we had raised to Y-12 officials during our review."

The IG then recommended Y-12's new access policy be "fully and consistently implemented" and DOE ensure that "other Department facilities include inspection steps specific to the issues discussed in this report."

That was under the Bush administration.

Five years later, the IG took another look at Y-12 -- this time to see how it was handling environmental cleanup projects funded by the economic stimulus law signed by President Barack Obama in February 2009.

In a December 2010 audit report, the IG revealed that Y-12 had waited until September 2010 to enforce a regulation under the stimulus law that required federal contractors by December 2009 to use the federal government's E-Verify system to certify the work eligibility of their employees. Y-12 also had not verified the proof-of-citizenship documents presented by workers.

"In particular, Y-12's badge issuance procedures include a requirement to provide acceptable proof of citizenship such as a passport or certified birth certificate," said the IG report. "However, Y-12 management acknowledged that it was not required to verify the validity of proof of citizenship as part of its badging process, and we confirmed that Y-12 does not verify the information with independent parties."

Unlike Y-12, DOE's Berkeley lab does not manufacture nuclear-weapons components. According to the IG, it "conducts unclassified research"

Still, the IG's April report said: "Because of potential security concerns associated with unauthorized workers, we initiated this inspection to determine whether contractors who were awarded contracts for infrastructure upgrades at Berkeley, including their subcontractors, verified the employment eligibility of their employees in accordance with Federal requirements prior to those employees accessing the site."

Berkeley's subcontractors, it turned out, had signed their contracts before September 2009, when a 2008 executive order signed by President Bush requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify went into effect.

"Also, instead of instituting the E-Verify requirement for contracts awarded on or after September 8, 2009, Berkeley selected February 1, 2010, as the E-Verify implementation date," said the IG report. "Thus, only contracts awarded on or after February 1, 2010, were required to participate in E-Verify."

"Had E-Verify been voluntarily used, Berkeley's contractors likely would have identified a number of other anomalies that we discovered during our testing," said the IG report. "For example, we identified eight Form I-9s containing duplicate Social Security numbers, the use of Social Security numbers that belonged to deceased individuals, or the use of Social Security numbers that had yet to be assigned."

The IG referred this "possible misuse" of Social Security numbers to the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

It should surprise no one that a government that will not adequately enforce the immigration laws within its own Energy Department facilities will not adequately enforce them anywhere else.