Officials should not have granted Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis security clearance. The signs were there: a history of mental illness, shooting arrests, and anger-management issues. But still he was cleared.
In a letter to Inspector General Patrick E. McFarland this morning, four senators — Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Ron Johnson, R-Wis., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rob Portman, R-Ohio — requested a review of the security-clearance background investigation for the Navy Yard shooter. You can read the full letter below.
The senators are particularly interested in one aspect of the shooter’s background: He was a government contractor. The shooter was hired in September 2012 by a subcontractor of Hewlett-Packard, and his security clearance was then apparently confirmed with the Defense Department. That security clearance was reconfirmed earlier this summer. The shooter then used his secret-level clearance to get into the Navy Yard on Monday.
While it is easy to look at this situation in hindsight and wonder why he had access to the Navy Yard, which eventually allowed him to carry out the shooting, senators want a detailed explanation from officials on why his troubled past was not flagged.
More broadly, this could lead to further congressional investigations into the level of access government contractors are afforded. The most recent and highly public example is obviously Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of classified information about surveillance programs. Since then, the Obama administration has scrambled to explain to the American people, lawmakers, and international leaders the extent to which the U.S. spies on its own citizens and people and governments around the world.
Embarrassingly for the White House, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a state visit over concerns about the NSA’s surveillance program, which the leader cited in a phone call with President Obama on Tuesday. While the trip was scheduled for Oct. 23, talks with White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice proved unfruitful, because differences in philosophy remained between the two countries.
Another incident occurred during the Iraq war, when private contractors killed a number of unarmed civilians in Nisour Square, while also being partially responsible for detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison.
Separately, the International Code of Conduct Association was launched in 2011 by several governments around the world, including from the United States, Switzerland, and the U.K, to address these gaps in government accountability and oversight for these contractors. Nearly 600 private security groups have signed up for this accord since its launching.
To be sure, a few high-profile examples of government contractors behaving badly is not in and of itself a trend. There were over 4.9 million federal government workers and contractors with security clearances in 2012, although the exact number of contractors is more difficult to pin down. But these few recent incidents are enough to bring heightened attention to just how contractors get clearance.
It may not be wise to expect Congress to act on gun legislation after the Navy Yard shooting. But that doesn’t mean they won’t touch contractors.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."