DOD left in the dark on Navy Yard shooter's criminal past

Government investigators glossed over serious details involving Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, including a 2004 shooting in Seattle, when vetting him for a security clearance, a Navy official. 

Officials from the Office of Personnel and Management (OPM), the office responsible for clearance investigations for the Pentagon and other government agencies, left U.S. military leaders in the dark about the 2004 shooting, according to a senior Navy official. 

Navy leaders were only informed of the violent incident after Alexis killed 12 people during a shooting rampage at the Navy's Washington headquarters at the Navy Yard Sept. 16. 

Alexis was killed in a shootout with police after they responded to shots being fired at the Navy base in Southeast Washington, D.C. 

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As a result, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus ordered that all future OPM background investigations of sailors, Navy officers and civilian contractors "include any available police documents" related to the individual being investigated. 

Prior to the Navy Yard shootings, thorough reviews of police records in clearance investigations was not required by the Navy, Pentagon or other U.S. national security agencies. 

The requirement was one of several recommendations handed down by Mabus Monday, stemming from a service investigation into the Monday shootings. 

Alexis was honorably discharged from the service in 2011. At the time of the shootings, he was working as an information technology contractor at Naval Sea Systems Command, located at the Navy Yard. 

Prior to his enlistment in the Navy in 2007, Alexis shot out the tires of a vehicle as part of an "ongoing argument" between Alexis's family and a construction company working nearby the family's home in Seattle, the official told reporters at the Pentagon. 

During the course of the OPM investigation of Alexis's enlistment, officials from the office interviewed him on the details of his arrest in Seattle for the 2004 shooting. 

As part of the OPM report submitted to Navy leaders in 2007, investigators told the service Alexis was arrested after he "deflated the tires on a construction worker's vehicle," according to Navy documents. 

"There was no reference to a gunshot or firearm" in the OPM report to Navy leaders, the service official said Monday. 

As a result, Navy officials did not object to Alexis being granted Secret clearance upon his enlistment into the service. 

In the aftermath of the Navy Yard shootings, officials found dramatic discrepancies between the OPM summary of the 2004 shooting and the police records related to Alexis's arrest for the incident. 

If additional details of the Seattle shootings had been provided to the Navy, the incident would have raised serious red flags on whether Alexis should have been granted a security clearance. 

Alexis was able to retain that security clearance after leaving the Navy, allowing him to be eligible for the IT contractor job at the Navy Yard. 

That clearance gave Alexis access to service's headquarters, where the mass shootings took place. 

Last week, a Defense Department official told reporters that Alexis was not subjected to a reinvestigation for his security clearance after being hired for the IT job at the Navy Yard. 

Reinvestigations for security clearances could be triggered when a former military member is transitioning into contractor or civilian service, according to Pentagon officials. 

But that only occurs if the time between retirement and re-entry is more than two years and if “derogatory information” is uncovered, officials say.

A Pentagon inspector general report, released Tuesday, found that 52 felons had received unauthorized access to military facilities for 62 to 1,035 days, placing “military personnel, dependents, civilians and installations at an increased security risk.”

The report also found convicted felons received access to bases because Eid Passport, the private firm conducting the background checks, did not identify the felony convictions in initial public records checks.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last Wednesday the panel planned to hold hearings on the security clearance process.