Senators Call for Investigation Into How Navy Yard Shooter Got His Security Clearance

Months after Edward Snowden, government contractors are coming under scrutiny. Again.

Guards check IDs of Navy Yard employees on Wednesday, two days after the shooting.
National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros and Matt Berman
See more stories about...
Matt Vasilogambros Matt Berman
Sept. 18, 2013, 7:46 a.m.

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.

OPM Let­ter on Navy Yard Shoot­ing

What We're Following See More »
STAFF PICKS
When It Comes to Mining Asteroids, Technology Is Only the First Problem
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

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.

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Obama Reflects on His Economic Record
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

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.”

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Reagan Families, Allies Lash Out at Will Ferrell
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

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."

Source:
PEAK CONFIDENCE
Clinton No Longer Running Primary Ads
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

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.”

Source:
CITIZENS UNITED PT. 2?
Movie Based on ‘Clinton Cash’ to Debut at Cannes
2 days ago
WHY WE CARE

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."

Source:
×