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 Berman and Matt Vasilogambros
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Matt Berman and Matt Vasilogambros
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 »
THE QUESTION
How Many Signatures Has the Petition for Trump’s Tax Returns Received?
2 hours ago
THE ANSWER

More than 1 million, setting a record. More than 100,000 signatures triggers an official White House response.

Source:
SENT LETTERS TO A DOZEN ORGANIZATIONS
Senate Intel Looks to Preserve Records of Russian Interference
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate Intelligence Committee is seeking to ensure that records related to Russia’s alleged intervention in the 2016 U.S. elections are preserved as it begins investigating that country’s ties to the Trump team. The panel sent more than a dozen letters to 'organizations, agencies and officials' on Friday, asking them to preserve materials related to the congressional investigation, according to a Senate aide, who was not authorized to comment publicly. The Senate Intelligence Committee is spearheading the most comprehensive probe on Capitol Hill of Russia’s alleged activities in the elections."

Source:
MORE COOPERATION WITH LOCAL AUTHORITIES
Deportation, Detention Rules Released
2 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday night "implemented sweeping changes to the way immigration policy is enforced, making clear that millions of people living illegally in the U.S. are now subject to deportation and pushing authorities to fast-track the removal of many of them. ... The policy calls for enlisting local authorities to enforce immigration law, jailing more people while they wait for their hearings and trying to send border crossers back to Mexico to await proceedings, even if they aren’t Mexican."

Source:
WON’T INTERFERE IN STRUCTURING NSC OFFICE
White House to Give McMaster Carte Blanche
19 hours ago
THE LATEST
NAIVE, RISK TAKER
Russia Compiling Dossier on Trump’s Mind
22 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

Retired Russian diplomats and members of Vladimir Putin's staff are compiling a dossier "on Donald Trump's psychological makeup" for the Russian leader. "Among its preliminary conclusions is that the new American leader is a risk-taker who can be naïve, according to a senior Kremlin adviser."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login