Recently, 25 year-old NSA contractor Reality Winner was arrested for leaking classified material. This begs a serious question: can we trust the government to properly vet an individual’s security status?
Shortly after the news broke of Winner’s arrest, news outlets reported that Winner tweeted out some incredibly radical statements. Unbelievably, Winner tweeted out a declaration of support for the Iranian government. “There are many Americans protesting US govt aggression towards Iran. If our Tangerine in Chief declares war, we stand with you!”
Winner had reportedly obtained a “top-level security clearance.” This means that she was granted clearance to handle classified material that could have been extremely vital to national security.
How in the world did someone like Winner get this level of security clearance?
The National Background Investigations Bureau, according to their website, conducts over 95% of the background checks for security clearances. For those who undergo a security clearance, they are subject to an “extensive background investigation.”
A casual glance at Winner’s Twitter feed reveals that she should not have had access to classified material. Still, the government granted her clearance. The NBIB failed to effectively vet an American security clearance applicant.
In light of this, how can we can trust the government to vet anyone effectively? This issue is particularly relevant today because of the politically charged issue of travel bans and the acceptance of Syrian refugees.
Many officials have warned the public in recent years about the US government’s inability to vet refugees properly. In doing so, they cited the constraints provided by a lack of available information on refugees. But even if the government did have access to the information they needed, can we assume they would use it competently?
Reality Winner shows that we cannot make that assumption. The government allowed a 25 year-old radical leftist to obtain a top level security clearance. This particular radical leftist declared her sympathies for a terrorist-sponsoring country. Her application went through a so-called extensive vetting process, but her investigators failed to demonstrate even mild competence.
After this embarrassing display, how can we be expected to have any faith in the government’s ability to vet foreigners effectively? The answer is that we can’t.
Until we have any evidence the government can competently vet its own security clearance applicants–let alone young men who hail from countries that do not have any information to provide–we cannot let anyone who could be a terror threat into this country.