Embassy Security: Background Investigations of Foreign Employees, Report to the chairman, Committee on Government Operations, House of Representatives   [open pdf - 2MB]

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's security investigation and reinvestigation practices for foreign national employees at nine overseas posts, focusing on: (1) the posts' compliance with State security investigation requirements; and (2) U.S. officials' views regarding the potential security risks that foreign nationals posed at overseas posts. GAO found that, although the nine overseas posts generally followed State regulations when they conducted background investigations: (1) five had not investigated all current employees; (2) six did not conduct background investigations of all contract employees; (3) six did not follow established procedures for investigating local guards; (4) six had significant backlogs of long-term employees requiring reinvestigations; (5) they inconsistently applied regulations regarding who required investigation and reinvestigation; (6) they generally assigned a low priority to background investigations relative to other security concerns; (7) State did not monitor the investigations; and (8) State lacked an adequate tracking system to determine who needed background investigations. GAO also found that, although overseas officials cited such potential problems as host government pressure on foreign nationals to provide sensitive information, or foreign national employees' involvement in espionage, criminal, or terrorist activities, State indicated that, except in a few countries, the benefits of employing foreign nationals outweighed the risks.

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