- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house Passed February 11th, 2019Roll Call Vote 377 Yea / 3 NayIntroducedFebruary 7th, 2019
What is House Bill H.R. 1065?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 1065
In-Depth: Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress to require the OMB to report to Congress on the examination of social media activity during security clearance investigations. Then-Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), who cosponsored this bill with Rep. Lynch last Congress, spoke in its favor on the House floor in March 2018:
“[I]n the private sector, if an employer is going to hire somebody, a lot of times they will do a Google search, they will check social media postings to try to learn a little bit more about this prospective employee. It may be hard to believe, but the Federal Government often fails to conduct a simple internet search on individuals before they are trusted with a security clearance. Publicly available social media is one of the best ways to understand an individual's interests and intentions, but our investigatory process still focuses on interviewing the applicant's family, friends, and neighbors. For over a decade, various agencies, including the Office of Personnel Management, have conducted studies and pilot programs to assess the effectiveness of social media checks in security clearance investigations. Congress has not been provided those results. What this bill will do is it will require these agencies to identify best practices so that we can use this going forward to make sure that the people who are employed by this government, armed with a security clearance, who have access to sensitive information that puts the security of the country at risk, that these are people whom we want to have there and they are not folks who have ulterior designs. A lot of times it is going to be much more informative to look at their publicly available writings than to talk to somebody who may have lived next door to them in an apartment 10 years ago. I think that this bill is overdue.”
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform favorably reported this bill in the 115th Congress, writing in its committee report:
“[This bill] is a much needed first step in modernizing federal security clearance background investigations. In recent years, there have been several cases in which federal contractor employees with security clearances leaked classified information after previously sharing suspicious posts on publicly available social media sites. Two high profile examples are the cases of Edward Snowden and Reality Winner, both of whom were National Security Agency (NSA) insiders with access to very sensitive information. Examining the options available to implement these social media investigations will help inform and expedite security clearance re- form. A preliminary check of a subject’s social media could prove more effective than many current parts of clearance investigations. Over roughly the past decade, other agencies have created similar programs including the Army, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and the NSA. Only some of the results of these programs are publicly available, and what is available does not contain clear analyses or conclusions. OMB oversees the security clearance system as a whole through its delegation of responsibility to the Suitability and Security Executive Agents (the Office of Personnel Management [OPM] and ODNI, respectively). OMB is thus well positioned to analyze and report on the results of the disparate pilot programs, allowing Congress to understand what worked previously and what needs improvement.”
In 2016, Bill Evanina, Director of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s (ODNI) National Counterintelligence and Security Center, expressed support for using social media in security clearances:
“Social media has become an integral--and very public--part of the fabric of most American's daily lives. We cannot afford to ignore this important open source in our effort to safeguard our secrets--and our nation's security."
Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) noted that the Army, which initiated a pilot program using social media for background checks, “found that while checking social media is a valuable tool, it can be costly and may raise some legal issues.”
Of Note: In 2016, then-Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper issued a directive authorizing — but not requiring — the use of social media in security clearance background investigations. Additionally, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016 included a provision enhancing agencies’ security programs to integrate “relevant and appropriate information from various sources, including government, publicly available and commercial data sources, consumer reporting agencies, social media and such other sources as determined by the Director of National Intelligence,” and making all cleared individuals subject to security review at least twice every five years. However, the practice of using social media in security clearance investigations appears to have been adopted unevenly, and on a limited basis.
CBO Cost Estimate (115th Congress)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Report (115th Congress)
House Hearing Transcript (115th Congress)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
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