U.S. congressman calls for subpoena for head of vetting firm

Reuters News
|
Posted: Sep 15, 2014 4:31 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. congressman on Monday asked that the head of U.S. Investigations Services be subpoenaed to give a deposition about allegations of fraud and security problems at the private company, which makes background checks on federal employees.

Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat and the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent California Representative Darrell Issa, the committee's Republican chairman, a letter saying he was concerned about cyber security breaches at USIS and the reluctance of the contractor's chief executive, Sterling Phillips, to discuss allegations of fraud.

Earlier this month five Republican House members urged the Department of Homeland Security to withdraw a $190 million border security contract awarded to USIS because the company is facing federal fraud charges for "dumping" 665,000 background check cases without conducting proper reviews.

Cummings said that for six months Phillips had not responded to the committee's questions and had hindered its investigation of the case by refusing to provide the identities of two executives.

In August it was learned that USIS, which is based in Falls Church, Virginia, was hit by a cyber attack that compromised data of at least 25,000 federal workers, including some undercover investigators. Cummings said Phillips needed to be asked if USIS had been properly securing personal information of people applying for security clearances.

In his letter to Issa, Cummings said USIS apparently has continued to obtain new federal contracts by having subsidiaries bid on them, "despite the fact that the Justice Department has implicated the company’s entire upper management in a massive fraud scheme, and despite the fact that virtually nothing is known about the role of USIS parent companies in this scheme."

USIS carried out the background checks on former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked volumes of information about the agency's information-gathering work, and Aaron Alexis, who authorities say killed 12 people and wounded three in a shooting spree at the Navy Yard in Washington in 2013 before he was shot dead.

(Writing by Bill Trott; Editing by Eric Walsh)