Firm that vetted Snowden under criminal investigation

Edward Snowden

(CNN) — The private firm that vetted Edward Snowden in 2011 is under criminal investigation for routine failures in properly investigating the backgrounds of people in line for security clearances, Sen. Claire McCaskill said during a Senate hearing Thursday.

Additionally, a government watchdog told lawmakers his agency believes the check into Snowden’s background conducted by USIS, a Virginia-based government contractor, may have been faulty.

Snowden, who held a top secret clearance, admittedly leaked documents this month detailing two government surveillance programs. At the time of the leaks, he was an employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.

McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, didn’t specify Thursday whether the criminal probe into USIS was prompted by Snowden’s leaks. She was heading a hearing into the process of obtaining security clearances, which has come under scrutiny since Snowden’s identity was made public nearly two weeks ago.

One of the witnesses before the lawmakers was Robert McFarland, the inspector general for the federal Office of Personnel Management, who in a statement to the committee detailed extensive fraud committed by investigators charged with vetting people before they’re granted security clearances.

Asked Thursday by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, whether USIS’s look into Snowden’s background “may not have been conducted in an appropriate or thorough manner,” McFarland said there was reason for concern.

“Yes, we do believe there may be some problems,” McFarland said.