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Background check contractor that vetted Snowden subject of a probe

The Inspector General's office is conducting a criminal investigation into the company that did a background check on Edward Snowden in 2011. NBC's Brian Williams reports.

The federal contractor that performed a 2011 background check on Edward Snowden, the self-identified leaker of two confidential government surveillance programs, is the subject of a probe, the inspector general of the Office of Personnel Management told lawmakers Thursday.

“Yes, we believe that there – there may be some problems,” Patrick McFarland, the OPM’s inspector general, said of Snowden’s background check, according to Reuters.

Snowden, who is a former employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed himself as the source for documents detailing government Internet and telephone data-gathering programs. He is believed to currently be in Hong Kong.

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., characterized the probe into USIS as a criminal investigation, but the company said it had never been made aware that it was the target of any such investigation.

“It is a reminder that background investigations can have real consequences for our national security,” McCaskill said of the revelations Snowden first made to British newspaper The Guardian. The senator said that there may be widespread problems with government background checks. At least 18 investigators running checks have been convicted of faking results over the last six years, she said.

USIS said in a statement released Thursday that the company has “never been informed” that it is under investigation for criminal conduct. The company said it conducts thousands of confidential background checks for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and other government agencies every year, and does not comment on the checks.

USIS said that it received a subpoena the OPM inspector general’s office in January 2012. The company “complied with that subpoena and has cooperated fully with the government’s civil investigative efforts,” it said in the statement.

The company says it has more than 6,000 employees and 100 federal government contracts.

On Thursday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., called separately for an investigation into how access to top secret information is granted to government contractors.

“These men and women have access to some of our most sensitive national security information,” Nelson said in a letter to Senate Intelligence Committee chair Senator Dianne Feinstein.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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