Tighten up a leaky ship

Certain positions in government involve handling of sensitive material. To get such a job, one has to obtain security clearance. How deeply investigators look into one’s background depends on the level of clearance required.

It can require as long as 10 months to be approved for “top-secret” security clearance. The intensity of such probing has created a backlog of 700,000 security clearance reviews.

And because hiring for some positions can’t wait, the government has resorted to an interim clearance process. In other words, applicants sometimes are put to work before investigators know much about them.

“I’ve got murderers who have access to classified information,” Dan Payne, director of the U.S. Defense Security Service, said last week. “I have rapists. I have pedophiles. I have people involved in child porn.” As soon as such character flaws are discovered, the people involved have their clearances revoked, Payne added.

Obviously, a better system needs to be found. While the government is working on that, it should prosecute those who lie about their backgrounds and punish them severely. Setting a few examples might reduce the number of people who resort to fraud in order to gain access to classified information they should never be allowed to see.


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