In wake of the deadly Navy Yards shooting on Sept. 16, the U.S. Navy, just like all branches of the Armed Forces and Department of Defense agencies (Benghazi anyone?), were quick to try and counter the firestorm of criticism and bad PR - simply by doing what our military and government does best - announcing an investigation and then following up with useless new regulations and procedures that do nothing.
Since the deadly attack that killed 13, Navy brass have come up with four new security clearance guidelines designed to prevent any sort of similar attacks at one of our military installations…but are new regulations really needed OR maybe, just maybe - barring a government shutdown of course - folks can actually start doing their jobs?
It seems it was not just Aaron Alexis’ employer, the Florida contracting firm The Experts, who did not perform due diligence on the shooter’s background check, it was the Navy itself.
Ring Around the Rosie
The new guidelines only highlight the incompetence, laziness and pass the buck attitude of the Navy officials and government workers who unwittingly allowed someone, as obviously unstable as Alexis, to slip through the cracks.
The first recommended change at the Office of Personnel Management would be to have all security clearance investigations include any available police documentation. Yes, you read that right. Only now, after the umpteenth time a crazed gunman has opened fire on a military base, has it occurred to the military to cross check civilian police records. Many in the press boasted of uncovering, within hours after the shooting, the litany of gun and violence related charges against Alexis spanning numerous states and backdating to 2004 when he shot out a neighbors tires in a fit of rage.
It boggles the mind at how this has not been standard protocol. While terrorism threats against Americans and our troops have never been higher, not cross-checking police reports for a national security clearance is as unbelievable as a preschool daycare applicant not being cross checked with the national sex offender database.
It is gross negligence to issue a security clearance to people that have prior run-ins with the law. Now some may argue, like the ACLU, that if someone is arrested but not charged, as in Alexis’ case, technically it should not be held on their record. But remember, we are talking military records and this is the unwieldy U.S. government - normal procedure is to document everything and anything - it’s called Cover Your A**. Besides, since when has the U.S. military adhered to outside rule?
Exhibit B, takes us back to 2011 when the Navy gave Alexis an honorable discharge even though his military record, properly documented of course (see above), was riddled with as many marks as a failing geometry student taking a pop quiz on isosceles triangles. Standard protocol shows that if Alexis had a neutral discharge, a flag would have been raised and his full military record would have been examined when he applied for a security clearance.
So who made the decision to classify the discharge as honorable? Were they just trying to sweep Alexis and his bad behavior under the rug, quietly push him out of the military, hoping he would just go away?
We already know this happened with Fort Hood Shooter Nidal Hasan. The Army and the FBI ignored, for almost two years, Hasan’s extremist views, threatening and unstable behavior, as well as his unsavory communications and online associations with terror leaders. Why? Besides the dot-connecting incompetence that seems to plague our separate but equal FBI and CIA, we can only assume the Army wanted to avoid opening up a yummy can of political incorrectness.
The next two guidelines include using senior, instead of junior, personnel to review clearances, and requiring contracting companies to let the Navy know if the company is reviewing one of their employee's security clearance. Again, not necessary if people were just doing their jobs as required.
For example, in July 2013, two months before the shooting, Alexis’s security clearance was re-run and cleared through the defense security service. Ironically, also in July, Alexis’s roommate filed a police report accusing the soon-to-be shooter of putting an unknown substance in his gas tank of his car.
If you want the job done right, do it yourself.
Then in August, just weeks before 9/11 and during the week long closure of 18 U.S. Embassies due to a worldwide terror threats, police were called in to investigate Alexis’ bizarre behavior while working as a contractor at the Naval base in Newport, R.I. Newport police filed a report and alerted the Naval authorities - hey this guy is nuts and he works on your base. The Navy said they would follow up, but never did.
If they had called his employer, The Experts, who also did the background check on Edward Snowden (that’s two for two!), they would have found out that Alexis was taken off the job and would have known that after the Experts interviewed his fellow employees, he was back on the job three days later.
Don’t you think a police report citing Alexis as delusional would have caused some alarm? The Experts, by the way, were finally dumped by Hewlett Packard this week.
Hewlett Packard - the government contractor, who hired the sub contractor to hire a former member of the military. It’s almost laughable. The U.S. government is so large and unwieldy, we use contractors to hire contractors. Nothing can go wrong there. It’s like a free advertisement for a small and limited government.
Now I’ve been on many military bases, have had to show proper identification and undergone the stink eye from base security. I have had to get a temporary parking pass, made sure my license, car insurance, and government identification was up to date.
Did I undergo a background check or have my car searched? No. But, just like our current members of the military, I am assumed to be have been vetted. How can the military assume all contractors are vetted? Oh, that’s right, they are depending on a broken down security clearance system.
Do we need to change the procedures to get on a base or beef up security? Officials, lawmakers and the public are up in arms about how to increase security at military bases, trying to reignite a push for new gun control measures. Funny thing though, all the guns on a military base are locked up. Soldiers are not allowed to carry weapons on base - training exercises are the exception - but guys are not wandering around with AR-15’s.
But maybe they should be, I’d certainly feel safer. What if we let senior ranking soldiers carry weapons - men who already go through years of weapons and security training - actually create a “guns welcome” zone where it makes sense. I bet a shooter would think twice before attempting a similar massacre.
Over the past decade years, psychos or terrorists have slipped through the cracks and committed mass murders due to a number of reasons, political correctness (Fort Hood), failure of the mental health system (Virginia Tech), and bad parenting skills (Newtown Shooting) to name a few.
But to know that our Department of Defense has been unable to defend and protect its own U.S. military installations because they can’t see a parade of red flags waving two inches from it’s own face is depressing.
Oh, did I mention the fourth and most important new security clearance guideline: an examination of the entire security clearance system. Ya think?
Feature Photo Credit: Eric Gay/AP
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