Senate Intel panel to investigate military’s security clearance

The Senate Intelligence Committee plans to investigate military security clearance in light of the shooting at Washington's Navy Yard, committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said Wednesday.

Feinstein said the committee would examine the processes that allowed the Navy Yard shooter to obtain and keep his security clearances despite gun-related arrests.

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While Feinstein has been most vocal about Congress taking up gun control legislation in response to the Navy Yard attack, she told The Hill Wednesday that she also plans to examine the security clearance process and look at possible tweaks to the system.

“Clearly, there’s a problem with the security clearance,” Feinstein said. “We’re going to take a look at it with respect to the intelligence community at well. I think the processes need to be refined.”

Feinstein pointed to the arrests from gun-related incidents of Aaron Alexis, 34, the former Navy reservist who police say gunned down 12 people on Monday at the Navy Yard.

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“With somebody arrested three times, somehow, in a security clearance, these arrests ought to be picked up,” she said. “The fact that they’re connected with firearms ought to be picked up.”

Defense officials say Alexis obtained a security clearance while he was in the Navy and was not subjected to a second background check when he became a contractor after leaving the service in 2011.

The officials said that under current practices, a reinvestigation could be triggered when a former military member is transitioning into contractor or civilian service. But only if the time between retirement and re-entry is more than two years and if “derogatory information” is uncovered.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that he was ordering a military-wide review of security clearance practices in order to “fix those gaps” that are in the system.

“Obviously, something went wrong,” Hagel said at a Pentagon press conference Wednesday.

Feinstein connected the failure to flag Alexis’s security clearance to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee who also received a security clearance as a government contractor.