[Congressional Record Volume 165, Number 26 (Monday, February 11, 2019)]
[Pages H1498-H1499]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and 
pass the bill (H.R. 1065) to provide for a study on the use of social 
media in security clearance investigations.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The text of the bill is as follows:

                               H.R. 1065

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``Social Media Use in 
     Clearance Investigations Act of 2019''.


       Not later than 6 months after the date of enactment of this 
     Act, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget 
     shall submit to Congress a report on the examination of 
     social media activity during security clearance 
     investigations, including--
       (1) the current use of publicly available social media in 
     security clearance background investigations;
       (2) any legal impediments to examining publicly available 
     social media activity, and whether those impediments are 
     statutory or regulatory in nature;
       (3) the results of any pilot programs to incorporate social 
     media checks in such investigations, including the 
     effectiveness and cost of such programs;
       (4) options for widespread implementation of the 
     examination of social media activity during such 
     investigations; and
       (5) estimates on the cost for such options as part of--
       (A) all Top Secret investigations; or
       (B) all Secret and Top Secret investigations.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentlewoman from 
California (Ms. Hill) and the gentleman from North Carolina (Mr. 
Meadows) each will control 20 minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from California.

                             General Leave

  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all 
Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their 
remarks and include extraneous material on this measure.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentlewoman from California?
  There was no objection.
  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I 
may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank Congressmen Lynch and Hice for their work on 
this bill. This bill would require the Director of the Office of 
Management and Budget to issue a report to Congress on the use of 
social media checks in background investigations for security 
  In recent years, a number of agencies have begun pilot programs to 
help develop the best methods for incorporating social media into 
background checks. For example, the Army initiated a pilot program that 
found that, while checking social media is a valuable tool, it can be 
costly and may raise legal issues.
  This bill would require that OMB conducts a comprehensive study on 
these issues and report back to Congress. This one-time report would 
describe the current uses of social media postings for investigative 
purposes and any legal concerns or impediments to their use.
  In addition, the report would summarize the results of any pilot 
programs on the use of social media conducted to date and provide cost 
estimates for implementing their widespread use in the background 
investigation process.
  This report would greatly assist Congress in determining whether 
further legislative action is needed when it comes to the Federal 
Government's use of social media in background investigations. An 
identical measure was approved by the House last year without 
  Mr. Speaker, I urge every Member of this body to support this bill, 
and I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. MEADOWS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  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 
  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. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this thoughtful piece of 
legislation, and I reserve the balance of my time.
  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, I yield 5 minutes to the 
gentleman from Massachusetts (Mr. Lynch).
  Mr. LYNCH. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.
  As chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, I rise in 
strong support of H.R. 1065, the Social Media Use in Clearance 
Investigations Act, bipartisan legislation that I introduced earlier 
this month. It had passed this House previously, last session, with no 
  I commend our full committee chairman, Mr. Cummings of Maryland, for 
his continued leadership on this issue of security clearance reform and 
for his work to advance H.R. 1065 to the floor today.

  I also thank the new ranking member of our subcommittee, Mr. Hice of 
Georgia, for his support as well.
  In order to enhance the Federal security clearance process, H.R. 1065 
will require the Office of Management and Budget to examine the extent 
to which Federal agencies are reviewing publicly available social media 
profiles as they conduct background investigations for security 
clearance applicants.
  This bill will also require OMB to submit recommendations to Congress 
on how we can implement this examination of social media activity in 
clearance investigations across the Federal Government while also 
safeguarding individual privacy rights.
  Our bipartisan oversight of the security clearance process has 
already revealed that Federal agencies have too often missed red flags 
in determining an individual's eligibility to access classified 
information and facilities.

[[Page H1499]]

We need only recall the tragic shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in 
2013 to underscore the devastating impact of a failure to effectively 
vet security clearance holders such as Aaron Alexis, a defense 
contractor with a marked history of gun violence who was still issued a 
secret-level clearance.

                              {time}  1615

  Chief among the recommendations offered by the interagency council 
that President Obama convened to identify lapses in security clearance 
reviews was the need for agencies to have ``access to relevant 
information from a variety of sources.''
  As noted by William Evanina, the head of counterintelligence for the 
U.S. government since 2014, his quote is:

       Social media has become an integral and very public part of 
     the fabric of many Americans' daily lives. And we cannot 
     ignore this important open source in our effort to safeguard 
     our national interests.

  Moreover, a public social media profile adds to the ``mosaic'' of a 
person and may reveal to background investigators evidence suggesting a 
change in ideology, ill intent, vulnerability to blackmail, and 
allegiance to another country.
  The integration of social media into security clearance background 
investigations falls in line with the unprecedented exploitation of 
Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and other networking services by 
terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State.
  As reported by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, the 
prolific use of social media by terrorist groups has not only 
facilitated the dissemination of propaganda, but also served as a 
primary global recruitment and financing tool.
  Foreign governments are also increasingly relying on social media to 
advance their espionage efforts. According to open source reports, 
Chinese spy agencies have routinely resorted to using fake LinkedIn 
accounts to try to recruit Americans with access to government and 
commercial secrets.
  ``60 Minutes'' recently reported that former CIA officer Kevin 
Mallory, who has been convicted on espionage charges, was first 
approached by his Chinese government handlers through the LinkedIn 
career networking site.
  In advance of our 2016 subcommittee hearing on this issue, then-
Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, directed Federal 
agencies to integrate public social media reviews into the security 
clearance process. While this directive was a step in the right 
direction, it has been incorporated quite unevenly and on a limited 
  Our bill, H.R. 1065, will advance the full integration of this 
important reform to better ensure that our national security framework 
is adapting to evolving technologies much faster than the usual pace 
that is characteristic of the Federal Government.
  I would note that, according to the annual job recruitment survey 
issued by CareerBuilder, an online employment resource, seven out of 10 
private sector employers have already incorporated social media reviews 
into their hiring process.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his kind remarks in reference 
to this bill, and I urge my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to 
support H.R. 1065.
  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.
  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, I urge the passage of H.R. 1065, 
and I yield back the balance of my time.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Espaillat). The question is on the 
motion offered by the gentlewoman from California (Ms. Hill) that the 
House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 1065.
  The question was taken.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. In the opinion of the Chair, two-thirds 
being in the affirmative, the ayes have it.
  Ms. HILL of California. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and 
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this motion will be postponed.