State to review vetting procedures

Ex-State Department employee Kendall Myers and his wife were arrested last week, suspected of spying for Cuba.

I’m not optimistic about this:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Monday she has ordered a review of security and vetting procedures that let a State Department employee suspected of spying for Cuba slip through the cracks.

Ex-State Department employee Kendall Myers and his wife were arrested last week, suspected of spying for Cuba.

Clinton told reporters she directed State Department security personnel to review “every possible security program we have, every form of vetting and clearance that we employ in the State Department, to determine what more we can do to guard against this kind of outrageous violation of the oaths that people take to serve our country here in the State Department.”

Walter Kendall Myers, a 72-year-old former State Department employee, and his 71-year-old wife, Gwendolyn, were arrested Thursday and charged with illegally aiding the government of Cuba for almost 30 years, the Justice Department said.

First of all, I have serious doubts that this is the entire story, or that the Myers’ alleged espionage went unnoticed for three decades.  The timing and the purported sponsor–Cuba, of all places–smell funny.  It’s only a hypothesis, but putting the Castros on the back foot could be useful for future negotiations about loosening trade restrictions.

Or the arrests could be exactly what they seem.

That said, I suspect the vetting and clearance process at State are more than adequate.  There is a human factor to this that will probably have to be accepted as a cost of operation.  There just isn’t much way to safeguard information someone is determined to pass on.  If they see it, work with it, and know it, the information is at some risk.  The review will probably turn up a couple of opportunities (and if it doesn’t, look for some to be created), but the existing processes work fine.  It’s the people who make their own decisions that produce a gap.

MORE:  Tom Murray, a former student of Myers, accepts the charges at face value.


2 responses to “State to review vetting procedures

  1. The roots of crime are at once social and personal. Based on the narrative from Tom Murray, Walter Kendall Myers, surely, and Gwendolyn Myers as well perhaps, placed himself in a social context and made specific choices. No structural changes to the vetting process can eliminate such risks.

    It is hard to imagine what secrets could be useful to Castro’s government. It seems to me that anyone who wanted to help Cuba regardless of the rules of the US government would smuggle them a hospital supply warehouse or a shipload of automobile parts or help them set up a call center for an HMO.

  2. Pingback: Week in Public Organizations, 15Jun2009 « PublicOrgTheory

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