Navy shooter lied about previous arrest

2013-09-24 22:23
Aaron Alexis. (File, AP)

Aaron Alexis. (File, AP)

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Washington - The man who killed 12 people at a Washington military base lied about a previous arrest when he applied for a security clearance in the Navy.

The omission was among several gaps in his record that eventually allowed him to work in the secure building, underscoring weaknesses with the clearance process.

Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist, also failed to disclose thousands of dollars in debts, according to Navy report released Monday.

Federal investigators dismissed the omissions, and made one of their own - deleting any reference to Alexis' use of a gun in the 2004 arrest over a parking disagreement.

Alexis, 34, was working as defence contractor and entered the Washington Navy Yard last week with a valid security badge. He was killed in a shootout with police that ended the rampage.

The tragedy has revealed a number of problems with the security clearance system, including its focus on whether someone is a treason threat rather than a potential killer.

Defence officials have acknowledged that a lot of red flags were missed in Alexis' background, allowing him to maintain a secret-level security clearance despite a string of behavioural problems and brushes with the law.

Over the past week, they have been struggling to determine what might have been missed, and what changes could be made in order to try and prevent similar violence in the future.

So far, however, the detailed reviews only underscore how subjective the security checks can be and how difficult it is to predict violent behaviour based only on minor conduct issues that could easily be overlooked.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus recommended on Monday that all police reports - not just arrests or convictions - involving an individual must be included when a background check is done.

He also recommended that the Navy enhance its management of sailor evaluations and fitness reports by assigning more senior officers to oversee them.

A review of Alexis' nearly four-year Navy career was ordered last week by Mabus.

The report said that a background document given to the Navy omitted the fact that Alexis had shot out the tires of another person's car during the parking dispute.

Instead, the report from the Office of Personnel Management said Alexis "deflated" the tires.

It was not clear who was at fault for the omission. Officials said they didn't know whether the summary provided to the Navy was compiled by OPM, or if it was put together by the company that investigated Alexis for his clearance - US Investigations Services, or USIS - and passed on to OPM.

According to a senior Navy official, a police report on the parking dispute in Seattle included information about the gun and said Alexis was arrested, charged with malicious mischief and fingerprinted and spent the night in jail.

But when he appeared in court the charges were dismissed and he believed the incident was erased from his record.

The Navy also released other details about Alexis' troubled service record, including two efforts by his commander to impose non-judicial punishments for various infractions.

The Navy said Alexis failed to report to work because he was in jail for a disorderly conduct arrest outside a nightclub in September 2008.

His commander ordered the loss of a half-month's pay for two months and a one-rank demotion, but suspended both punishments because it was Alexis' first offense.

He was later arrested for discharging a firearm in his apartment. Navy officials began preparing a less-than-honourable discharge, but it was never completed because he said the incident was an accident, and no charges were filed.

Several months later he received an honourable discharge from the Navy.

Read more on:    us  |  navy yard shooting

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