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DOD now ‘continuously vetting’ all staff with security clearances, may soon include social media monitoring

The Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. (Dreamstime/TNS)
October 08, 2021

All Department of Defense service members, civilians and contractors granted security clearances will now be subjected to continuous vetting, which could eventually include social media monitoring.

On Tuesday, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) announced that it had successfully enrolled about 3.6 million people in continuous vetting, which is part of a broader effort to create a “Trusted Workforce.” Continuous vetting is in its early stage, dubbed TW 1.25, and will eventually replace all periodic reinvestigations that are conducted every five or 10 years.

Under the program, the DCSA will receive automated records from government and commercial data sources, which will be scanned for “any alerts that might indicate potential issues or other suspicious or criminal activity.” The records include items like arrest warrants and credit reports.

Heather Green, assistant director of vetting risk operations for the DCSA, said the new requirement will also ultimately apply to DOD personnel who do not have a clearance. Green added that officials are discussing whether social media monitoring will be included in the vetting process.

“This brings the agency and the federal government one step closer to its trusted workforce, or TW 2.0, goal of providing continuous vetting for all of DOD, as well as other government personnel outside of the department, she said,” a DOD news release stated.

TW 2.0 will likely be slowly implemented over the next several years.

“We developed that in order to provide that initial version of continuous vetting, focusing on high-value data sources through automated record checks. Those continuous record checks that are turned on right now mean that issues of potential risk to an individual’s trustworthiness that may have taken years to discover in the past are now identified and addressed in very near real-time data,” Green said in a statement.

While continuous vetting is now fully operational, Green said the department encourages individuals who are experiencing issues, “such as with finances,” to report them to their security manager.

“Self-reporting is a critical piece of continuous vetting and we prefer to have already known about the incident prior to an alert being generated in the system,” she said.

In its next stage – TW 1.5 – more data categories will be added.

“In addition to the criminal and terrorism checks that are now being done, suspicious financial activity and foreign travel will also be monitored. When TW 1.5 begins, periodic reinvestigations will no longer be necessary,” the DOD release stated

DCSA is the U.S. government’s largest security organization, whose mission is to “secure the trustworthiness of the U.S. government’s workforce, the integrity of its cleared contractor support, and the uncompromised nature of its technologies, services, and supply chains through vetting, industry engagement, counterintelligence support, and education.”

In May, the DOD pushed back on a report alleging the department has plans to monitor service members’ social media for extremist activity, with the Pentagon’s top spokesman calling it “misreporting.”

The Intercept previously reported that a domestic extremism group working within the Biden administration’s DoD was currently designing a new social media screening program under the leadership of Bishop Garrison, a senior adviser to the secretary of defense, internal Pentagon documents reviewed by the outlet revealed. The program will reportedly “continuously” scan military personnel for “concerning behaviors.”