Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Reviews Its Security Clearances ; Washington Shooting Prompts Many to Ask How Gunman Had Pass

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

U.S. Reviews Its Security Clearances ; Washington Shooting Prompts Many to Ask How Gunman Had Pass

Article excerpt

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a review of the way military employees and civilian personnel, including the shooter in the rampage in Washington, receive security clearances.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced reviews Wednesday of the physical security of United States military facilities worldwide and of the way military employees and civilian personnel, including the shooter in the rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, receive the security clearances that give them access to military bases.

He said it was now clear that "red flags" had been missed about the troubling past of the man identified as the shooter, Aaron Alexis.

At a Pentagon news conference, Mr. Hagel pledged: "Where there are inadequacies, we will address them, and where there are failures, we will correct them. We owe the victims, their families and all our people nothing less."

Security clearances have become a sensitive issue following the shooting on Monday that left 13 people, including Mr. Alexis, dead. Pressing questions had already been raised after a former intelligence contractor, Edward J. Snowden, released information about secret U.S. surveillance and after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, by an army major in 2009.

But Mr. Hagel said that warning signs often appeared more clearly after the fact.

"Obviously, when you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags -- of course there were," he said. "And should we have picked them up? Why didn't we? How could we have? All those questions need to be answered."

Mr. Alexis, a civilian contractor and former naval reservist, had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior. A month before the rampage, he called the police in Rhode Island to complain that he was being pursued by people keeping him awake by sending vibrations through his hotel walls.

Mr. Alexis told investigating officers on Aug. 7 that a person he had argued with at an airport in Virginia had "sent three people to follow him" and that they were harassing him with a microwave machine, according to a Newport, Rhode Island, police report. Mr. Alexis said he had heard "voices speaking to him through the wall, flooring and ceiling," the report said.

Mr. Alexis told the police he was a navy contractor, and then twice that month he sought treatment from the Veterans Affairs Department for psychiatric issues, according to a senior law enforcement official.

But he retained his official credentials.

Mr. Hagel said Wednesday that he was ordering three reviews: one to look at security and access procedures at United States military facilities worldwide; one to examine procedures for granting or renewing security clearances, including to civilian contractors; and an independent panel to examine the same issues. …

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