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house Bill H.R. 3210

SECRET Act: Do the Feds Need to Tell Congress About the Security Clearance Backlog?

Argument in favor

Bureaucratic inefficiency is preventing federal agencies and employees from carrying out vital national defense work through a security clearance investigation backlog. The agency responsible needs to keep Congress informed about the status of the backlog.

operaman's Opinion
···
07/26/2017
Yes, I certainly understand clearance in a timely manor. But what are the penalties? Who is responsible for the delays? Will heads roll on delinquent delays, or will the bureaucrats continue drawing their paychecks and padding retirement? And who will enforce this law and see that it's carried out?
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Loraki's Opinion
···
08/04/2017
[This is the kind of reporting we've come to expect from purveyors of fake news. Are we expected to take the word of "two Senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named"? If this letter was sent to Susan Rice's house, I guess we're meant to assume that this is a picture of a copy of that letter. If it's authentic, why is it undated? There is no link to the document, so it looks like it was released in possibly an illegal manner by people who APPEAR to be WHISTLEBLOWERS! There's already damning evidence that strongly suggests that McMaster is undermining President Trump (not to mention the Republic!) and is a possible national security threat. If this letter is legit, President Trump MUST fire him!!!] A letter from H.R. McMaster said Susan Rice will keep her top-secret security clearance [VIDEO] By Sara A. Carter | 12 Hours Ago Almost one month after it was disclosed that former President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice was unmasking members of President Trump’s team and other Americans, Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, sent an official letter giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her “need-to-know” requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure, Circa has confirmed. The undated and unclassified letter from McMaster was sent in the mail to Rice's home during the last week of April. Trump was not aware of the letter or McMaster’s decision, according to two Senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named. IMAGE: This is the letter from McMaster to Rice. Names, phone numbers and personal addresses have been blurred. “I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you 'originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,' as National Security Adviser,” the letter said. The letter also states that the “NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.” Circa revealed in March that during President Obama’s tenure, top aides -- including Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch -- routinely reviewed intelligence reports received from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad. They were doing so by taking advantage of rules Obama relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats, according to documents obtained by Circa. http://circa.com/politics/some-us-intelligence-officials-want-trump-to-rescind-obamas-expansion-of-nsa-data In June, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Rice as part of the committee’s larger investigation into the unmasking of Americans under the Obama administration. Rice maintains that she never accessed the information inappropriately and has agreed to testify before the committee. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/susan-rice-to-testify-house-intelligence/index.html Under the law, and under certain conditions, it is common practice for some senior government officials to be given the unfettered access to classified information, and their “need to know” is waived under "Executive Order 13526 Section 4.4 Access by Historical Researchers and Certain Former Government Personnel.” But the White House officials told Circa that under the current congressional investigation, and given President Trump’s ongoing concern that members of his team were unmasked, Rice’s clearance should have been limited to congressional testimony only or revoked until the end of the investigation. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports, but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and that they did nothing improper. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also has legal authority to unmask officials. In a June tweet, Trump called the revelation that Rice and other Obama senior officials were unmasking members of his team the “big story… the ‘unmasking and surveillance' that took place during the Obama administration.” “Basically, this letter which was signed in the last week of April undercuts the president’s assertion that Susan Rice’s unmasking activity was inappropriate. In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” said a senior West Wing official, who was shown the document by Circa and verified its authenticity. “In fact, they would have their security clearance and right to 'need-to-know' stripped.” “The point is, is that it lowers the bar for her,” the Senior West Wing official said. “This memo McMaster sent to Rice makes it so that she doesn’t have to prove a continuing 'need-to-know' to have access to classified information and in effect is a White House pardon of Susan Rice and could be used by other Obama officials who conducted targeted unmasking of the campaign as a defense,” the official added. The White House has not responded to requests for comment. An intelligence official told Circa “that the NSA decision to provide this level of access to the subject of several ongoing investigations and to waive her ‘need-to-know’ requirement raises serious legal, moral and ethical concerns.” According to information obtained by Circa, dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or who were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures. Sometimes Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Rice, his [sic] Brennan and Lynch. http://circa.com/politics/government/trump-speech-at-cia-deeply-saddened-john-brennan Shortly after Circa released the redacted documents disclosing the change in rules, it was revealed that Power had also extensively requested permission to unmask American names in incidental foreign intercepts. RELATED STORIES: Former Obama aide Ben Rhodes is now a person of interest in the unmasking investigation http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/08/01/former-obama-aide-ben-rhodes-now-a-person-of-interest-in-house-intelligence-committee-unmasking-investigation FBI lawyer allegedly under investigation for purportedly leaking about Yahoo, Inc. program http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/07/28/politics/fbi-general-counsel-allegedly-under-investigation-for-alleged-leaks-exposing-yahoo-inc-program EXCLUSIVE: A top FBI lawyer is allegedly under an investigation for leaking classified information to the media http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/07/27/politics/a-top-fbi-lawyer-is-allegedly-under-an-investigation-for-leaking-classified-information-to-the-media https://www.circa.com/story/2017/08/03/politics/susan-rice-keeps-top-secret-security-clearance-hr-mcmaster-letter-says
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IllWill's Opinion
···
07/25/2017
I doubt this will actually speed up the process, but Congress should certainly know about the backlog. I think this just basic government transparency.
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Argument opposed

Requiring an agency responsible for a security clearance investigation backlog to report to Congress about the backlog may lead to things improving down the road, but in the short term it’s not going to speed up the process.

SouthernGal's Opinion
···
07/25/2017
Oh goodness, I'd be okay with this, if congress was holding up their end with removing security clearances from those who perjured themselves before congress or 'forgot' meetings, contacts & relevant financial information from their applications. Until then, I don't trust this congress to do anything that holds this administration responsible for their lies.
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Marilyn's Opinion
···
07/25/2017
Congress can't even handle what they have on their plate. This would just waste more time. Hey Feds, try dealing with your own problem. Congress can't fix anything.
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gailnabity's Opinion
···
07/26/2017
Ridiculous legislation. Once again Congress tries to control the operation of the Executive branch. Get back in your lane! You've got no time for this. You can't work through the long backlog of business and legislation backlogged in Congress. Get some legislation passed on the things broken in the legislation currently in force. Lack of term limits for Congress, tax reform, pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, Medicare for all, excluding special interests including PACS from lobbying and paying Congress persons to vote for legislation that favors them, the special interests, stopping corporate welfare, expanding Medicaid, instituting true gun control, closing the gender pay gap, reforming prisons, fixing the legal system which favors white criminals over blacks, requiring employers to pay for family leave, providing a free education for college students. I could go on and on.
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What is House Bill H.R. 3210?

This bill — known as the SECRET Act — would require the Office of Personnel Management’s National Background Investigations Bureau to report to Congress about the backlog of security clearance investigations. The report would include details about the size of the backlog, and the average length of time for each sensitivity level it takes to carry out an initial investigation and a periodic investigation.  The report would be required within 90 days of the bill’s enactment and and once per quarter every year thereafter.

The bill’s acronym stands for the Securely Expediting Clearance through Reporting Transparency (SECRET) Act.

Impact

People delayed from beginning or continuing their work for the federal government because of the security clearance backlog; and the OPM’s National Background Investigations Bureau.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 3210

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) introduced this bill to require a quarterly report on the size of the security clearance investigation backlog and the average length of time it takes to carry out a security clearance investigation:

“Bureaucratic processes are hindering government agencies and employees from doing critical work on behalf of our national defense because of these investigation backlogs. This bill brings more government transparency and represents a critical step in Congress holding those accountable for this unacceptable backlog.”

This legislation was passed by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on a voice vote, and has the support of one Democratic cosponsor in the House.


Media:

Summary by Eric Revell

(Photo Credit: USAF - SRA Matthew Lancaster / Public Domain)

AKA

SECRET Act of 2018

Official Title

To require the Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau to submit a report on the backlog of personnel security clearance investigations, and for other purposes.

bill Progress


  • EnactedMay 22nd, 2018
    The President signed this bill into law
  • The senate Passed March 15th, 2018
    Passed by Voice Vote
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed July 26th, 2017
    Passed by Voice Vote
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedJuly 12th, 2017

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    Yes, I certainly understand clearance in a timely manor. But what are the penalties? Who is responsible for the delays? Will heads roll on delinquent delays, or will the bureaucrats continue drawing their paychecks and padding retirement? And who will enforce this law and see that it's carried out?
    Like (16)
    Follow
    Share
    Oh goodness, I'd be okay with this, if congress was holding up their end with removing security clearances from those who perjured themselves before congress or 'forgot' meetings, contacts & relevant financial information from their applications. Until then, I don't trust this congress to do anything that holds this administration responsible for their lies.
    Like (40)
    Follow
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    Congress can't even handle what they have on their plate. This would just waste more time. Hey Feds, try dealing with your own problem. Congress can't fix anything.
    Like (17)
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    [This is the kind of reporting we've come to expect from purveyors of fake news. Are we expected to take the word of "two Senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named"? If this letter was sent to Susan Rice's house, I guess we're meant to assume that this is a picture of a copy of that letter. If it's authentic, why is it undated? There is no link to the document, so it looks like it was released in possibly an illegal manner by people who APPEAR to be WHISTLEBLOWERS! There's already damning evidence that strongly suggests that McMaster is undermining President Trump (not to mention the Republic!) and is a possible national security threat. If this letter is legit, President Trump MUST fire him!!!] A letter from H.R. McMaster said Susan Rice will keep her top-secret security clearance [VIDEO] By Sara A. Carter | 12 Hours Ago Almost one month after it was disclosed that former President Obama's National Security Adviser Susan Rice was unmasking members of President Trump’s team and other Americans, Trump’s own national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, sent an official letter giving her unfettered and continuing access to classified information and waiving her “need-to-know” requirement on anything she viewed or received during her tenure, Circa has confirmed. The undated and unclassified letter from McMaster was sent in the mail to Rice's home during the last week of April. Trump was not aware of the letter or McMaster’s decision, according to two Senior West Wing officials and an intelligence official, who spoke to Circa on condition that they not be named. IMAGE: This is the letter from McMaster to Rice. Names, phone numbers and personal addresses have been blurred. “I hereby waive the requirement that you must have a ‘need-to-know’ to access any classified information contained in items you 'originated, reviewed, signed or received while serving,' as National Security Adviser,” the letter said. The letter also states that the “NSC will continue to work with you to ensure the appropriate security clearance documentation remains on file to allow you access to classified information.” Circa revealed in March that during President Obama’s tenure, top aides -- including Rice, former CIA Director John Brennan and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch -- routinely reviewed intelligence reports received from the National Security Agency’s incidental intercepts of Americans abroad. They were doing so by taking advantage of rules Obama relaxed starting in 2011 to help the government better fight terrorism, espionage by foreign enemies and hacking threats, according to documents obtained by Circa. http://circa.com/politics/some-us-intelligence-officials-want-trump-to-rescind-obamas-expansion-of-nsa-data In June, the House Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Rice as part of the committee’s larger investigation into the unmasking of Americans under the Obama administration. Rice maintains that she never accessed the information inappropriately and has agreed to testify before the committee. http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/29/politics/susan-rice-to-testify-house-intelligence/index.html Under the law, and under certain conditions, it is common practice for some senior government officials to be given the unfettered access to classified information, and their “need to know” is waived under "Executive Order 13526 Section 4.4 Access by Historical Researchers and Certain Former Government Personnel.” But the White House officials told Circa that under the current congressional investigation, and given President Trump’s ongoing concern that members of his team were unmasked, Rice’s clearance should have been limited to congressional testimony only or revoked until the end of the investigation. Rice and Brennan have confirmed they sought the unredacted names of Americans in NSA-sourced intelligence reports, but insisted their requests were routine parts of their work and that they did nothing improper. Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power also has legal authority to unmask officials. In a June tweet, Trump called the revelation that Rice and other Obama senior officials were unmasking members of his team the “big story… the ‘unmasking and surveillance' that took place during the Obama administration.” “Basically, this letter which was signed in the last week of April undercuts the president’s assertion that Susan Rice’s unmasking activity was inappropriate. In essence, anybody who committed a violation as she did would not be given access to classified information,” said a senior West Wing official, who was shown the document by Circa and verified its authenticity. “In fact, they would have their security clearance and right to 'need-to-know' stripped.” “The point is, is that it lowers the bar for her,” the Senior West Wing official said. “This memo McMaster sent to Rice makes it so that she doesn’t have to prove a continuing 'need-to-know' to have access to classified information and in effect is a White House pardon of Susan Rice and could be used by other Obama officials who conducted targeted unmasking of the campaign as a defense,” the official added. The White House has not responded to requests for comment. An intelligence official told Circa “that the NSA decision to provide this level of access to the subject of several ongoing investigations and to waive her ‘need-to-know’ requirement raises serious legal, moral and ethical concerns.” According to information obtained by Circa, dozens of times in 2016, those intelligence reports identified Americans who were directly intercepted talking to foreign sources or who were the subject of conversations between two or more monitored foreign figures. Sometimes Americans’ names were officially unmasked; other times they were so specifically described in the reports that their identities were readily discernible. Among those cleared to request and consume unmasked NSA-based intelligence reports about U.S. citizens were Rice, his [sic] Brennan and Lynch. http://circa.com/politics/government/trump-speech-at-cia-deeply-saddened-john-brennan Shortly after Circa released the redacted documents disclosing the change in rules, it was revealed that Power had also extensively requested permission to unmask American names in incidental foreign intercepts. RELATED STORIES: Former Obama aide Ben Rhodes is now a person of interest in the unmasking investigation http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/08/01/former-obama-aide-ben-rhodes-now-a-person-of-interest-in-house-intelligence-committee-unmasking-investigation FBI lawyer allegedly under investigation for purportedly leaking about Yahoo, Inc. program http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/07/28/politics/fbi-general-counsel-allegedly-under-investigation-for-alleged-leaks-exposing-yahoo-inc-program EXCLUSIVE: A top FBI lawyer is allegedly under an investigation for leaking classified information to the media http://https//www.circa.com/story/2017/07/27/politics/a-top-fbi-lawyer-is-allegedly-under-an-investigation-for-leaking-classified-information-to-the-media https://www.circa.com/story/2017/08/03/politics/susan-rice-keeps-top-secret-security-clearance-hr-mcmaster-letter-says
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    Ridiculous legislation. Once again Congress tries to control the operation of the Executive branch. Get back in your lane! You've got no time for this. You can't work through the long backlog of business and legislation backlogged in Congress. Get some legislation passed on the things broken in the legislation currently in force. Lack of term limits for Congress, tax reform, pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, Medicare for all, excluding special interests including PACS from lobbying and paying Congress persons to vote for legislation that favors them, the special interests, stopping corporate welfare, expanding Medicaid, instituting true gun control, closing the gender pay gap, reforming prisons, fixing the legal system which favors white criminals over blacks, requiring employers to pay for family leave, providing a free education for college students. I could go on and on.
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    I doubt this will actually speed up the process, but Congress should certainly know about the backlog. I think this just basic government transparency.
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    Secret Act of 2017 must be a secret since there are no details listed.
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    Absolutely. This report could help with improvements down the road.
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    Congress can't do its own work: pass a timely budget. Too busy colluding with our enemies, gerrymandering to ensure reelection, and lining their pockets rather than representing the interests of their constituents and upholding our Constitution.
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    OPM is backlogged because they are still dealing with the aftermath of an adversarial hack on their systems. We should strengthen cyber security of ALL our federal entities, not place additional reporting requirements on them.
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    This will not speed up the backlog!
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    This would open the door for parties to corrupt the system.
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    How else would they get funding, or more staff. Congress is in charge!
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    Yes of course
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    I'm going to say yes but I should also point out. That the reason many of the agencies are backlogged is because for a businessman Trump is very bad at hiring people there are over 200 positions he has to fill and so far he's filled maybe 20+ his cabinet. And that's just the domestic stuff. We're also missing Key embassadors to foreign countries and I forgot which department it was but one of them has no senior staff. At this point I don't think the backlogs or much a matter of needing more money I think it's a matter of high-level appointees need to be appointed and Trump has been too busy playing with fire trucks to do anything
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    As someone that was been waiting for a clearance investigation for years, I can say that legislative oversight of this issue is a step in the right direction. The bureaucracy of the executive branch must be held accountable.
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    Text: H.R.3210 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) All Information (Except Text) There is one version of the bill. Text available as:XML/HTMLXML/HTML (new window)TXTPDF (PDF provides a complete and accurate display of this text.) Tip? Shown Here: Introduced in House (07/12/2017) 115th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 3210 To require the Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau to submit a report on the backlog of personnel security clearance investigations, and for other purposes. IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES July 12, 2017 Mr. Knight (for himself and Mr. Connolly) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform A BILL To require the Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau to submit a report on the backlog of personnel security clearance investigations, and for other purposes. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE. This Act may be cited as the “Securely Expediting Clearances Through Reporting Transparency Act of 2017” or the “SECRET Act of 2017”. SEC. 2. REPORT ON BACKLOG OF PERSONNEL SECURITY CLEARANCE INVESTIGATIONS. Not later than 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, and quarterly thereafter for 5 years, the Director of the National Background Investigations Bureau of the Office of Personnel Management shall submit to Congress a report on the backlog of security clearance investigations that includes— (1) the size of the personnel security clearance investigation process backlog; and (2) the average length of time, for each sensitivity level, to carry out an initial investigation and a periodic investigation.
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    Ridiculous legislation. Once again Congress tries to control the operation of the Executive branch. Get back in your lane! You've got no time for this. You can't work through the long backlog of business and legislation backlogged in Congress. Get some legislation passed on the things broken in the legislation currently in force. Lack of term limits for Congress, tax reform, pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers, Medicare for all, excluding special interests including PACS from lobbying and paying Congress persons to vote for legislation that favors them, the special interests, stopping corporate welfare, expanding Medicaid, instituting true gun control, closing the gender pay gap, reforming prisons, fixing the legal system which favors white criminals over blacks, requiring employers to pay for family leave, providing a free education for college students. I could go on and on.
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    I fail to see how this requirement to report on the backlog of completion of security clearances every 90 days will improve the efficiency of those backlogs. The reports themselves are most likely to become backlogged and then we will need another bill to report on the report of the backlogs. A secret Secrets bill.
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    I'm sure the backlog will clear up as soon as this POTUS is gone and qualified, competent people are once again nominated!
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