The controversy over Obama's Green Jobs Czar Van Jones and the vetting he either received or did not receive has been in the news. http://patterico.com/2009/09/08/the-unvetting-of-van-jones/ However, most have missed the point of background investigations of federal employees.
First, although the FBI conducts background investigations of political appointees, there is no legal basis for their background investigation, as a federal employee must have actually been offered a job before a background investigation can begin.
The next misconception is that the FBI looks for information that may embarrass the administration. That, again is not true, the FBI background investigations, a Single Scope Background Investigation which leads to a security clearance of either Confidential, Secret or Top Secret, is, by law, restricted to suitability to employment based on three things: 1) criminal activity, mostly related to criminal convictions, as arrests, dismissals and findings of not guilty are not legally examinable; 2) national security threat related to past, present, or future threat regarding espionage, terrorism, sedition, and treason; and 3) honesty on the background investigation itself.
Most SSBIs or their lesser cousin, BI, are conducted by contract employees of the Office of Personnel Management, usually the not well known contractor, U.S. Investigations Services. http://www.usis.com/
Some agencies direct contract with either individual investigators or other contractors, or perform the SSBI or BI. A BI, Background Investigation, is just for suitability and does not provide a security clearance. Most federal employees do not have a security clearance.
However, all employees, including the Czars, that have offices in or work at the White House have one of the three levels of clearance.
Critics have stated that there was a either a failure of the background investigation or there was no interest or concern about that which either was raised or could have been raised by the investigation.
But what the critics of Jones have brought forward are not part of an SSBI or BI, and, technically, FBI agents doing the background are not authorized to explore the issues that were raised about Jones. An SSBI and BI do not concern themselves now with public statements or associations, unless they directly advocate felonious behavior or result in a national security threat.
While most may say that his open communism and racism would be a concern, as well as his inane belief that Bush managed the 9/11 attacks, none of that could have been legally or practically contained in an SSBI or BI. Why? Because mere advocacy of what was once considered treasonous or seditious cannot be included in a SSBI or BI.
When I was trained to do background investigations we were instructed that similar material was protected by the 1st Amendment and could not even be included in reports.
The only thing we were trained to look for was dishonesty in facts, like failure to give accurate addresses. The only questions unrelated to the SSBI form, Standard Form 86, Questionaire for National Security Positions, http://contacts.gsa.gov/webforms.nsf/0/67959D7F54B5826E85256A7200447F47/$file/SF86.pdf we were allowed to ask, were of references and we asked the references if the applicant was honest, if he engaged in criminal behavior, and if the applicant ever advocated overthrow of the United States.
Membership in a communist front organization, irrelevant, advocacy of communism, irrelevant (unless a Communist Party member), associated with Communists, irrelevant, associated with hostile foreign nationals, irrelevant, advocacy of a one world government, irrelevant, participation in violent public demonstrations, associations with those who wish to overthrow the U.S., irrelevant, association with violent religious groups or violent religions, irrelevant, and so on.
Even worse was the unofficial issues an investigator was told to avoid. Don't try too hard to find something. If you obtained an allegation from a developed source, that does not hold weight if unproved or contradicted by claims of references. Basically we were to be uncrital consumers of what the subject's chosen references stated. So even if Jones advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government, it is unlikely that anyone he associated with or listed as a reference would admit that. And that was considered a sufficient investigation. We also were told to ignore homosexual behavior and sexual partners in general.
Take for instance Jones' criminal conduct. He had obviously been arrested a number of times for crimes committed during demonstrations. None of that would be relevant to an SSBI unless he lied about the arrests. Of course in big liberal cities, no one is ever actually charged or prosecuted for such crimes and they would not stop the granting of a security clearance.
Nothing in a background investigation is actually geared to determining if a person is morally fit for such positions. Today those are political decisions, which is why no background investigation would have stopped the appointment of a czar, even though interestingly they are federal employees whose funding for their positions is transferred from an agency to the White House.
This is why the Senate has such an important role. That is why the Senate's failure to hold Sonia Sotomayor accountable for her racism and radicalism is such a disappointment. Do you think that the racist and communist Van Jones would have been stopped by the Senate? He was no different than Sotomayor, but at least there is a potential of political embarrassment by his communism, racism and support for radical Islam. And therein lies the cure. A capable and aggressive Senate opposition, hopefully embarrassing the Obama Regime into stop appointing dangerous seditious traitors like Jones. However, a background investigation will not do that. Only a political investigation based on public policy issues will have an effect. Just remember an open communist who privately supported overthrow of the U.S. government passed an FBI SSBI.