Aaron Alexis poses for a mug shot after being arrested on Sept. 4, 2010, for discharging a firearm inside city limits, a Class A misdemeanor in Fort Worth, Texas. (Getty Images)
Because no derogatory information or long employment breaks surfaced in a background check system on Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, he needed only to be re-investigated once a decade, Pentagon officials say.
Without a break in employment longer than 24 months or “derogatory information,” contract employees with secret clearance need to undergo a re-investigation just once every 10 years, the Defense Security Service said in a statement Wednesday.
“There was no unadjudicated derogatory information...and Mr. Alexis did not have a lengthy break in employment,” the DSS said in the statement.
The disclosure comes as lawmakers are expressing concerns about the state of the nation’s background check system and questioning how Alexis, whose Navy Yard rampage killed 12 people, could obtain and retain a security clearance despite a history of gun-related arrests and mental illness issues.
Merton Miller, associate director of Federal Investigative Services at the Office of Personnel Management, said in an emailed statement that OPM conducted a background security clearance for Alexis in 2007.
The Defense Department adjudicated his file and granted his clearance in 2008, according to Miller.
“In general, background security clearance investigations include information about an individual’s criminal history, including criminal records, and that information would be passed on to the adjudicating agency,” he said.
The Defense Security Service said the Navy’s Central Adjudication Facility determined that Alexis was eligible for secret clearance in March 2008.
Alexis was granted clearance as a Navy sailor and was able to retain his access to secret information when he became a contractor under reciprocity rules, according to DSS.
What remains unclear, however, is why no derogatory information turned up in the Joint Personnel Adjudication System (JPAS), which is the Pentagon’s management system for security clearance actions.
In addition to gun-related arrests in 2004 and 2010, neither resulting in convictions, new details were reported by the New York Times that Alexis called police in Rhode Island a month ago to say people were harassing him with a microwave machine and that he heard voices through the wall, flooring and ceiling.