A hearing titled ‘The Navy Yard Tragedy: Examining Government Clearances and Background Checks’ will be held on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs regarding the recent Navy Yard shooting and the role of background checks in the government.  The hearing will be held in Room SD-342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. beginning at 10:30 AM. For more information, visit http://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/the-navy-yard-tragedy-examining-government-clearances-and-background-checks.

The hearing before the chief oversight committee of the U.S. Senate will examine how the government’s background check system gave Washington Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis, a military contractor and former Navy reservist, a secret-level clearance pass to a several military installations despite a history of arrests and disorderly conduct. Officials say that Alexis used his security clearance pass to enter the Washington Navy Yard on September 16, 2013 and shoot 12 people to death before being killed by police. Witnesses for the hearing will include the following:

  • The Honorable Joseph G. Jordan, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy Office of Management and Budget
  • The Honorable Elaine D. Kaplan, Acting Director, U.S. Office of Personnel Management
  • Frank Montoya, Jr., National Counterintelligence Executive, Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  • Michael Higgins, Deputy Under Secretary for Intelligence and Security, U.S. Department of Defense

According to a report from The Washington Post, Alexis was granted secret-level security clearance, which requires far less investigation than a top-secret clearance, in March 2008 while working as a full-time Navy reservist before receiving an honorable discharge in January 2011 despite several run-ins with military superiors and police that included disorderly conduct and shooting episodes. A Defense Department official told The Post that “lower-level clearances such as the one granted to Alexis are typically good for 10 years.” The complete report from the Post is available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/contractor-would-not-have-hired-aaron-alexis-if-past-brushes-with-law-had-been-known/2013/09/17/e5bc83da-1faa-11e3-8459-657e0c72fec8_story.html.

As reported earlier on the ESR News blog, the government background check system was already under close scrutiny after a federal review of the most recent background check conducted on fugitive National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden – who later leaked classified government documents about secret surveillance programs – found that the security clearance investigation was “inadequate.” The review of the background check that was presented in a letter to the Inspector general for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) found “several areas of incomplete coverage” of Snowden’s record and personal history. The ESR News blog originally posted on August 28, 2013 is available at: http://www.esrcheck.com/wordpress/2013/08/28/background-check-of-national-security-agency-leaker-found-to-be-inadequate/.





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