The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found more than 80,000 employees and contractors at the Department of Defense holding security clearances owed the Internal Revenue Service $730 million in unpaid federal taxes as of 2012. And 31% of those people owed back taxes at the time they were granted clearances. That again raised concerns about what kind of job is being done to vet workers with security clearances in the wake of disclosures of secret material by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Navy Yard shootings last year by Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people. Both Snowden and Alexis had security clearances.
United States Investigative Services, which granted those clearances and thousands of others, was accused earlier this year by the Justice Department of failing to perform background checks on applicants. The company claims it has tightened controls and installed new management.
The GAO reported about 26,000 of the tax-delinquent employees and contractors had access to classified information. "DOD officials stated that individuals having access to classified information pose a greater risk because they have more opportunity to actually compromise classified information than a person who is only eligible to access classified information," the GAO said in its report.
Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), who has spoken out before on the problem of federal employees owing taxes, said in a statement: "Giving security clearances to individuals who fail to follow the law is unwise and risky. Federal tax cheats with security clearances jeopardize both our national and economic security, and could unnecessarily put our nation's classified information at risk."
Auditors also pointed out that federal agencies aren't necessarily at fault for not knowing their workers owe the IRS because federal law prohibits the tax agency from disclosing taxpayer information to other agencies.
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