The House has passed a bill (HR-3737) that could pave the way for more scrutiny of federal employees’ social media accounts during investigations or reinvestigations for security clearances.
The measure would require OMB to assess: the current scrutiny of social media during those investigations; the “available options for broader implementation of social media checks and the cost estimates for such a program”; any legal barriers to expansion; and the results of existing pilot programs.
Under a policy announced in 2016, scrutiny of publicly available social media is to be a standard part of background investigations, although it is not clear how widely that occurs in practice, sponsors say. Several agencies have conducted pilot programs but only some of the results are available, and what is available does not contain clear analyses or conclusions, they say.
Some members of Congress have pushed for a requirement that clearance applicants or holders be required to divulge information not publicly available on social media, including a requirement that they disclose any aliases they use. That could speed up the process by screening out individuals without having to conduct full background checks, they argue. GAO recently put security clearance investigations on its list of high-risk federal programs out of concerns about problems including delays and a backlog of about 700,000 checks.
The House also passed: HR-4043, to make permanent whistleblower protection ombudsmen, to be retitled “coordinators,” in agency IG offices to educate employees about those laws and help those who suffer retaliation understand their rights; and HR-1132, to generally bar political appointees from “burrowing in” to a career position for two years after leaving the political position.