Robert Bales, the U.S. Army staff sergeant accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians, was given a security clearance even though he’d had previous financial troubles and scrapes with the law.
Bales, 38, who served in Iraq three times before being sent to Afghanistan, held a secret-level clearance, according to two U.S. military officials who had access to his records and asked not to be named because the details have not been made public.
While secret is a common, mid-level clearance, it may have given Bales access to classified material that according to the government’s definition, could cause “serious damage” to national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources. Two other military officials familiar with the clearance program, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said they were troubled that Bales held a clearance with a record that could expose him to blackmail or bribery.
About 90 percent of active-duty military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq have a security clearance, according to Evan Lesser, managing director of Clearancejobs.com, a website that matches U.S. clearance-holders with prospective employers.
“It’s not abnormal that Mr. Bales had a security clearance,” said Lesser, whose website is part of New York- based Dice Holdings Inc. (DHX) “Military personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq and most of the Middle East are probably going to have some level of security clearance.”