The Department of Defense reviews security after Naval shooting
The Department of Defense has ordered a review of security procedures at U.S. military installations in Texas and around the world in the wake of the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard that left 13 dead.
The Fort Worth man identified by federal agents as the gunman was a civilian, contract employee who had a government I.D. card and security clearance even thought he'd had run-ins with police and had been treated for mental illness.
Aaron Alexis, 34, a former Navy reservist, who was working as a civilian contractor, had a security card that allowed him access to the Navy Yard but not to the office building where he later opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding several others on Monday. Alexis was killed in a running gunfight with police.
Six weeks ago, Alexis called police in Newport, Rhode Island to report he heard voices coming from the ceiling in his hotel room and feared people wanted to hurt him. Alexis was recently treated at Veterans Administration hospitals for paranoia and sleep deprivation.
He'd also been arrested for shooting a parked car in Seattle in 2004, and for shooting into a neighbor's apartment in Fort Worth in 2010, but was never charged in either incident.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel ordered a review of how security clearances are awarded and reviewed.
"When you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags, of course there were and should we have picked them up,” Hagel said. “Why didn't we, how could we have, all those questions need to be answered."
Secretary Hagel's order follows the release of a report by the Department of Defense Inspector general Tuesday which disclosed major flaws in security screening of contractors working on Navy installations.
The reports says some 52 convicted felons managed to routinely get on bases even though their felony convictions came before they were granted entry credentials.
Before the mass shooting, Alexis was working for a subcontractor for Hewlett-Packard Enterprises called The Experts, which does work in the Navy Yard complex. A company spokesman said Tuesday that Alexis had passed two background checks, most recently in June, and that the company confirmed twice through the U.S. Defense Department that Alexis had security clearance.
There was "no adjudicated derogatory information" on Alexis when he received his secret security clearance in March 2008, a Defense Department official told NBC News.
Former CIA agent David Adler, now a Houston criminal attorney, says he's not surprised there are people with security clearances who shouldn't have them. Adler says the explosive growth of security and intelligence operations since September 11, 2001 makes it difficult to thoroughly vet tens of thousands of contract personnel added to the government payroll.
“A review is one thing, and maybe it's the first step, but to change the system? You're talking about hundreds of thousands of people.” Adler said. “How are you going to go through all of their files to see who's got potential mental health issues?”
Secretary Hagel also ordered the review of physical security procedures and safeguards at U.S. Defense installations. There are 18 military bases in Texas, including Ellington A.F.B. Here in Houston.
One of the largest is Fort Hood in Killeen. Major Nidal Hasan was recently sentenced to death by a military court there for a shooting rampage that left 13 dead and more than 30 wounded in 2005.