Should FBI Background Checks Be Mandatory for All Utility Workers?

FBI background checks are already given to many teachers; workers coming in contact with children, the elderly, and the disabled; and government employees, but should they also extend to utility workers? New York Senator Charles Schumer thinks they should be and proposed such legislation recently. Currently, only workers at nuclear plants undergo such extensive screenings.

But, why utility employees? In his proposal, Schumer cited a Department of Homeland Security report stating that extremists could launch physical or cyber attacks through electric, gas, or water systems. In his statement, Schumer wrote:

“Power plants and utilities present a tempting and potentially catastrophic target to extremists who are bent on wreaking havoc on the United States, which is why thorough background checks on all workers with access to the most sensitive areas of these operations are a must.”

The report cited provides evidence regarding such use of utilities in attacks:

“Violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions, and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has highlighted insider access as useful in attack planning.”

Additionally, such legislation would close a loophole regarding FBI background checks for all utility workers.

Not all criminal background checks are the same, and in a standard screening, criminal records from all locations in which a candidate has lived over a period of seven to 10 years are examined. FBI background checks take this a step further. A candidate is fingerprinted, and the prints are then compared to a national criminal database. If a match is found, regardless of location, the type of crime is reported in the background check. In addition to this extensive national criminal history search, FBI background checks may involve thoroughly screening a candidate’s criminal and educational histories, past addresses, driving records, credit history, and sex offender registries.