Candidate Vetting Failure—Catastrophic Results
By Kent Clizbe
Originally published on NewsMax; March 28, 2011
As an executive recruiter, I provided a 100% guarantee to my clients. When I provided a company with a candidate for a job, that candidate was ready, willing and able to do the job. If the candidate quit or was fired in the first three months, I returned my fee. Never once did I have to repay a fee.
A successful placement of a high level professional, usually a double PhD, in return for a five figure placement fee, requires a multi-step process. However, the most crucial step is vetting the candidate. I spent hours talking to the candidate, assessing his motivations, expertise, and qualifications. The candidate provided references and signed releases to allow me to obtain records of his education, citizenship, criminal history, civil court actions, and other documents.
As a CIA case officer, I dealt with foreigners, some with dubious backgrounds, making outrageous claims, in search of solutions to their problems. I had to assess their personalities, motivations, and the basics of their story—were they who they said they were; did they have access to what they claimed? This process relied on my street smarts, people skills, and assessment abilities. Usually no documents were available for vetting. I was successful because I ran operations like a business—with results required.
More than once, I uncovered problems in existing cases. Agents lied to their case officers; some had been lying for years. In many cases, the case officer, trained and experienced, but not street smart, or in love with his agent, was not really interested in the truth. Continuing to run a bad asset has very few immediate or obvious downsides. Uncovering lies makes handling an asset much more difficult.
Meeting and developing a relationship with a potential espionage agent requires the same care as recruiting a computational linguist for a Silicon Valley start-up, but the stakes are much higher. Not in monetary terms, but for the security of our country. Lives are at stake.
Placing a candidate who lies about his education with a commercial client would damage both my pocketbook and my reputation. Recruiting an espionage agent who works for an enemy intelligence service could be deadly. Seven CIA employees paid with their lives in December 2010 when a “vetted” candidate killed himself and his CIA case officer in Afghanistan.
Assessing personalities and detecting deception are two skills that have been profitable—monetarily, and in fighting terrorists and enemies. Vetting and validation of candidates is a difficult and unrewarding process. But on-going vetting and validation of the bona fides of candidates is a must, if you are serious about your reputation, or the security of your country.
Vetting candidates for political office makes vetting espionage agents, or dot.com engineers, look like child’s play. The damage a liar or enemy infiltrator can do to our country is potentially astronomical.
In the 2010 Congressional elections, I vetted a Tea Party candidate, without his cooperation. The issues I identified should have disqualified him. Besides lying about his degree, and exaggerating his work in the private sector, there were unanswered questions with the candidate’s long record of military service. As is typical with those caught covering up the truth, the candidate went on the attack.
The stakes for vetting a candidate for President of the United States make any other kind of vetting work seem silly. If a liar, or faker, or cheat was to make it into the White House our constitutional system could be at risk.
In my experience, a valid candidate, with nothing to hide, is eager to help in the vetting process. From providing full details of his personal and professional background, to revealing deep personal issues, a valid candidate works with those doing the vetting.
In the 2008 Presidential election, candidates were vetted by the press in varying degrees. The media examined, analyzed and publicly evaluated them. John McCain’s personal wealth, marriage, place of birth, mental stability, and other important issues. McCain cooperated, provided details and answered questions.
On the other hand, Barack Obama’s background remains nearly a blank slate. His school records, from kindergarten to law school, remain hidden. The story of his financial support is hidden—his private elementary and high school in Hawaii, his international travel, his graduate and undergraduate tuition and living expenses, and more. And these are just the beginning of the Barack Obama vetting failure.
My extensive research into the espionage operations of the Communist International (Comintern), detailed in Willing Accomplices, familiarized me with their techniques. One of their most common tactics to respond to exposure is so pervasive that it could be their motto: Admit nothing. Deny everything. Make counter-accusations.
For a professional vetter, it is clear that one candidate in 2008 was concealing vital information, at best. The documents and stories floated to support the candidate’s claims only raise more suspicion.
The most disturbing aspect of attempts to vet the mystery candidate was the Obama camp’s vigorous response. Their stereotypical response is nearly as damning as any information that could be revealed: Admitting nothing, denying everything, and making counter-accusations, the vetting of candidate Obama continues.
Do we need a professional candidate vetter? It looks like the project may have just begun. The future of our country might depend on it.