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Washington Navy Yard Shooting Raises Questions about Security Clearance

Navy Yard Shooting ArticleAs news of the Navy Yard shooting spread early on Monday, we were all glued to our computers (at least we at Security Today were) for the latest updates on who the shooter was, who was killed, and how he got a gun. We later found out that the gunman was named Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old contractor, and he shot and killed 12 people and injured eight.

As the news continued to pour in, more information came out about the Navy Yard’s security protocol. The most prominent security-related issue that the shooting prompted was the DoD’s security clearance for outside contractors. According to an article from USA Today, the Navy has not shared what its typical security clearance protocol for outside contractors is.

Alexis had a series of past actions that make us question why he was cleared to work at the yard. In 2011, he was honorably discharged for “a pattern of misconduct.” (Some suspect that he wouldn’t have been hired had he been “dishonorably discharged.”) In 2010, he fired a bullet into his ceiling after a feud with his above neighbor in Fort Worth, TX. In 2004, he allegedly shot out another man’s tires in a fit of anger. He was also reported as having mental health issues and “hearing voices.”

An article in the Washington Times suggests that perhaps the government missed these things because they issued Alexis a “secret” security clearance instead of a “top secret” one. The former only costs $260, while the latter costs $4,000. According to the article, there are no regulations set in place regarding who gets a “secret” clearance and who gets a “top secret” clearance.

His clearance, which was issued by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service, required his SSN, address, credit history, 10-year work history, three character references, military and criminal records and more. Whether or not these were all thoroughly checked is unclear. According to the Washington Times article, the Pentagon’s inspector general stated that the security system for screening Navy contractors has previously issued credentials to 52 felons.

In addition, an article from The Guardian states that the company that employed Alexis said that his latest background check revealed only a traffic violation, not his two gun-related charges.

Was the DoD lax in giving Alexis the proper security clearance? Should protocol be put in place for exactly who receives “secret” and “top secret” clearance? Let us know your thoughts about these questions and more.


Posted by Jamie Friedlander on Sep 18, 2013

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