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‘Naive’ govt policy poses ‘catastrophic’ security risk – media

Interviews for ‘top secret’ UK jobs are being done by video call, whistleblowers warn

British military personnel, civil servants, and private contractors applying for positions with access to “top secret” information are no longer automatically vetted in person, whistleblowers have revealed to The Telegraph. The UK risks a “catastrophic security breach” due to this shift toward virtual vetting, they warned.

Officers in the UK Security Vetting Department (UKSV) have raised concerns with the Cabinet Office over retaining online interviews via phone and video conferencing as part of the selection process, the paper reported on Thursday. The virtual meetings had apparently been expanded during the Covid-19 pandemic.

One whistleblower – a former vetting officer – said the agency has been restructured in line with plans to conduct more interviews virtually. The interviews – on top of background checks – are reportedly part of a ‘developed vetting’ process, which is mandatory for applicants with access to highly classified documents like military plans, diplomatic cables, market information, and nuclear secrets.


Describing the shift as “breathtakingly naive,” he told the paper that there was “no substitute” for face-to-face interviews – held over a 2.5 to four hour period – that are crucial to help vetters uncover secrets and personality flaws that could leave applicants “vulnerable to bribery and blackmail” by foreign powers. He claimed virtual interviews prevent vetters from picking up on “subtle body language signs.”

Despite protestations to senior managers and even to the chief executive, this is the future of vetting. There will be, at some time in the near future, a catastrophic security breach as a result.

Citing unnamed sources, The Telegraph reported that there was “two- or three-fold increase” in security vetting needs over the past five years. But one former UKSV officer said the growing demand was not “matched by the investment in [the agency] and its structure.” The paper noted that the backlogs had grown during the pandemic as a result.

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According to an internal UKSV policy document accessed by The Telegraph, the agency apparently “does not have authority to return to F2F [face-to-face] interviews in general.” Nor is there “currently an intent to return to widespread F2F interviewing,” it added. The paper also highlighted a policy update from July 2021 that outlined the “secure” platforms to be used for virtual interviews.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet Office told the paper that there had been no ‘blanket switch’ to virtual interviews, adding that decisions on whether vetting merited in-person or online meetings are taken on a “case by case” basis with “no impact on the effectiveness of the process.” An unnamed spokesman described the government’s security clearance procedures as being “extremely robust.”

https://ift.tt/DJaFUnW 19, 2022 at 05:57PM
from RT – Daily news


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