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Background check of NSA leaker faulted

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WASHINGTON – A government watchdog testified Thursday there may have been problems with the security clearance background check conducted on the 29-year-old federal contractor who disclosed previously secret National Security Agency programs for collecting phone records and Internet data.

Appearing at a Senate hearing, Patrick McFarland, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general, said USIS, the company that conducted the security clearance investigation of former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, is now under investigation itself.

McFarland declined to say what triggered the inquiry of USIS or whether the probe is related to Snowden. But when asked by Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., if there were any concerns about the USIS background check on Snowden, McFarland answered: “Yes, we do believe that there may be some problems.”

Meanwhile, top-secret documents published Thursday by The Guardian newspaper said NSA can keep copies of intercepted communications from or about U.S. citizens if the material contains significant intelligence.

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