Vetted again, Or how to #$#$ up without really trying.


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Jan 15, 2008

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Defence overhaul after fake security checks
AM By Michael Edwards
Posted October 20, 2011 09:58:42

PHOTO: A former DSA worker says she was told to fabricate information for security clearances. (Dean Lewins: AAP) RELATED STORY: Thousands of Defence clearances in doubtRELATED STORY: Defence to investigate fake security checksRELATED STORY: Defence staff told to fake security checks
MAP: Australia
The Defence Department is conducting a massive overhaul of its top-security clearances after revelations up to 20,000 security checks may have been compromised.

Three former Defence workers told the ABC in May this year information for security clearances was routinely fabricated to speed up the vetting process.

The Defence Security Authority (DSA) is not a high-profile organisation, but it has a serious role to play in Australia's national security.

It does security checks on people applying for a variety of government jobs, ranging from security guards at military bases to senior public servants with access to sensitive information.

Some of the people were applying for jobs which would give them access to sensitive military and political institutions.

The Federal Opposition claims the breaches could jeopardise Australia's national security.

Between 2009 and 2010, Monica Bennett-Ryan was employed by the DSA.

Ms Bennett-Ryan says false information was put into the DSA's information databases as a part of procedure if not all of an applicant's information was provided.

"On any given day we would take the applications and process the information that is written into them," she said.

"At first we used to reject those that didn't have the appropriate information, send them back to the applicant. But the rules changed and we were then told that we needed to process everything and if the information was not forthcoming that we should enter it - enter a substitute into the database."

Ms Bennett-Ryan says the false information represented a serious security breach.

"The information that we put in, whether it was true or false, once it was entered, couldn't be checked by anyone else unless we flagged it as a problem which we were not taught to do because we were told that this was correct procedure and this was the normal thing to do," she said.

"But unless we did that, further down the track, people like ASIO would not be able to tell that the information that we put into the database was actually false."

Yesterday in a Senate hearing the Opposition alleged three senior Labor ministers were told of the problems in 2010 but had failed to take action.

The hearing also heard 20,000 security clearances will have to be rechecked, of which 5,000 are at the top-security level.

Opposition defence spokesman David Johnston says he is almost too frightened to think about the possible ramifications.

"We have embassies, foreign dignitaries, all coming to Australia, all being the subject of people with security clearances. Rudimentary and fundamental jobs like servicing the aircraft and doing all these sorts of things," he said.

"It is very concerning that this problem has come to the point that it has because it was ignored for so long."

A spokesman for Defence Minister Stephen Smith says Senator Johnston's assertions are baseless and the Government has taken the matter very seriously since the allegations were first raised.

The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security is currently preparing a report into the breaches.