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.
- 1 Hillary Clinton Will Win the Nomination, But Then What?
- 2 Bernie Sanders Is a Loud, Stubborn Socialist. Republicans Like Him Anyway.
- 3 Why Gun Control Can’t Eliminate Gun Violence
- 4 Few Privacy Limitations Exist on How Police Use Drones
- 5 How Politics Breaks Our Brains, and How We Can Put Them Back Together
What We're Following See More »
Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”