Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act of 2019

Floor Speech

Date: Feb. 11, 2019
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1065, the Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act of 2019, introduced by the gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lynch).

Mr. Speaker, I was at one of these hearings where we were talking about this very issue and how it was just mind-boggling that we would not use current protocols, in terms of looking at national security clearances and the approval thereof.

It was Mr. Lynch's initiative here to actually address that in a legislative manner, and I support his good work there.

Millions of Americans use social media to interact with family members, friends, and followers. Public posts on social media websites occasionally provide a unique insight into a person's character and interests.

In several high-profile cases, Federal contractors with valid security clearances who leaked classified information had posted highly suspicious entries on their social media accounts.

For example, Edward Snowden used various online aliases to post suspicious content on the comment boards of a tech magazine before he received his security clearance. A simple check--mind you, a simple check--would have let us know of these suspicious activities and certainly could have worked to mitigate some of the damages that we all know too well.

Private companies and private citizens can and often do search publicly available social media accounts to learn more about job applicants. However, our government does not regularly check the social media of individuals who have applied for security clearances.

On May 12, 2016, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a new policy permitting the use of public social media information in security clearance investigations. Despite that legal clearance, most security clearance investigations still do not involve a social media check.

Various Federal entities have studied the potential use of social media information in background investigations for at least a decade. The National Security Agency, the Army, OPM, and others have conducted pilot programs on the effectiveness of social media checks, and it is not clear what use has been made of this data for these programs or whether the programs can be expanded to cover more applicants.

Concerning online behavior should be one of many factors used to evaluate a person's fitness to access classified information.

H.R. 1065, the Social Media Use in Clearance Investigations Act, is a step toward creating a more holistic security clearance review process. The bill requires OMB to evaluate pilot programs conducted to date and estimate the costs of wider implementation of publicly available social media checks.

This report is due within 6 months and will help guide subsequent legislation to require checks of publicly available data. We cannot wait any longer to modernize our security clearance process.


Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to thank the gentleman, again, for his thoughtfulness on this particular piece of legislation. I know that he has worked with my previous colleague, now the Governor of Florida, Mr. DeSantis, and we have great bipartisan support.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge the adoption and passing of H.R. 1065, and I yield back the balance of my time.