According to the Wall Street Journal, those citing the FBI background checks as evidence that Brett Kavanaugh has been cleared over and over, and that the activities he’s been accused of in high school could not have happened are missing two critical things. Unless specially instructed, the FBI investigations do not look into things that happened before the person being investigated was 18. That’s true even of Supreme Court nominees.
And the idea that a background check would have spontaneously surfaced accusations like those of Dr. Ford is simply not true. The background check is “largely based off a form called the SF-86—which a nominee him or herself fills out.” So if Kavanaugh didn’t get the FBI the information suggesting that Christine Blasey Ford (or Deborah Ramirez or anyone else) had a role in his life after the age of 18, it’s unlikely they would have been contacted.
The form mostly contains standard information that might appear on a resume or job application—places of residence, schools attended, military history, and a detailed employment history including positions and why the applicant left each job. Thirty-four pages down the form comes a section for “People who know you well.” Which provides names for three character witnesses. There’s a lengthy section for listing relatives. Another section for any foreign contacts, travel, business, or other overseas activities. There’s a section in which the applicant is asked to report on his or her own mental and physical health. They’re asked about any police record, previous actions, memberships in terrorist organizations and asked (a lot) about any use of illegal drugs. There’s also a section asking about the use of alcohol—a section of the report in which Kavanaugh’s responses might be interesting.
What’s not there is anything that would have likely turned up the names of any of the women now making accusations. It also seems unlikely that the FBI asked anyone about the high school parties that have been the focus of several accusations.
Because those aren’t the kind of things surfaced in standard background checks. They come from thorough investigations.