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Schumer: DOJ Exported Prison Contractors With Checkered Pasts To Rebuild Iraqi Prisons

Senators Letter to DOJ Sparks Inspector General Investigation Revealing that Dozens of Subcontractors Were Hired Without Proper Clearances in IraqSchumer Inquiry Prods DOJ to Implement New Controls on Selection of Guards, and IG Makes Other Recommendations

In June of 2004, Senator Charles E. Schumer asked the Department of Justice to investigate and report on how the Department hired at least three individuals to oversee the reconstitution of Iraqs prison system, despite credible allegations of serious misconduct when those individuals previously served as prison officials in the United States. The Justice Department referred the matter to its Inspector General and today Schumer received the Inspector Generals report on this matter.

During the Inspector Generals review, the IG learned that dozens of subcontractors without the proper clearances had been hired for the Iraq program. These included people who were placed in charge of the prisons and up and down the line. As a result of that discovery, Justice began to design and implement procedures intended to address those weaknesses. Justice has also hired three former high level Bureau of Prisons officials to provide corrections expertise that Justice lacked at the inception of the Iraq program.

Schumer said, It is very disturbing that the Justice Department would select subcontractors with checkered pasts to bring order back to Iraqs prison system. The one silver lining in this awful incident is that the Justice Department is finally taking real steps to insure that the guards and administrators we give to Iraqs prison system will help them, not make things worse.

It was bad enough that we already knew three of these guards previously engaged in serious misconduct, but this IG report today shows that many others were similarly hired. The bottom line is that we should not be exporting our dirty laundry as we are trying so hard to clean up Iraqs problems. If prison guards are not qualified to work U.S. prisons because of previously poor behavior or lack of proper clearances, they should not be considered good enough by our Justice Department for jobs in Iraqs prisons, Schumer stated.

The Justice Department said it did not know about the allegations regarding the three officials before they were hired for the Iraq program, but said that those allegations would not have dissuaded them from hiring the officials.

Based on the request made by Sen. Schumer, the Justice Department has already made several improvements to the clearance and hiring process. Here are some of the highlights:

� As part of the background check on candidates, Justice uses a standardized memo to determine whether the candidate should receive clearance. As part of this review, Justice discovered that the memo is not in line with the Departments own policy regarding risk assessment established in 2002. Justice has since created a new memo that complies with that policy.
� Created a full time position to oversee the subcontractor clearance process. Hired someone with military and corrections experience on Feb. 7, 2005.
� Improved tracking and record keeping process for clearance requests.
� Asked SAIC, the subcontractor, to modify the background check questionnaire to include information about lawsuits filed against or by the candidate.
� DOJ is now performing a Google search on all subcontractor candidates.
� DOJ drafted new Standard Operating Procedures for the subcontractor clearance process.
� DOJ has developed a computerized database to track clearance requests.

The Department of Justice also provided 11 new recommendations to improve the hiring process and clearance checks:
1. Develop and implement a training program for the clearance process.
2. Require annual briefings on the clearance process to relevant staff.
3. Develop and distribute periodic reports on security packet processing to the managers.
4. Require that waiver requests be in writing, and require reasons for the waiver.
5. Ensure that all applicants be asked about their lawsuit history.
6. Require new contractor to develop a web site with requirements for new subcontractor applicants.
7. Formalize requirement that written documentation of clearance status accompany Justices report on each candidate, and that this requirement be included in the SOP.
8. Track and review Google, LexisNexis, PACER and Accruint searches on candidates, and perform a cost benefit analysis of performing those searches. Take a closer look at whether red flags on a candidates background should preclude them from getting certain positions.
9. Give notice to all candidates about the searches that will be performed.
10. Draft and adopt clear guidance on who the searches will be performed and what information will be considered disqualifying.
11. Have the contractor create and maintain a database of subcontractors with security clearances.

The full text of the DOJ I.G. Report can be found here.