Focusing on Navy Yard shooting, Senate panel examines security clearances

Members of a Senate committee on Thursday expressed dismay at a federal-government security-clearance process that does not always check an individual’s police record.

Elaine Kaplan, acting director of the Office of Personnel Management, said Seattle police were not contacted before the gunman who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in September was granted a “secret” security clearance.

A woman weeps as she is reunited with her husband after a shootingat the Washington Navy Yard. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst). A woman weeps as she is reunited with her husband after a shootingat the Washington Navy Yard. (REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst).

Aaron Alexis, a Defense contractor whose rampage was stopped when he was killed by police, had been arrested for shooting another person’s car tires in Seattle three years before the 2007 background investigation that led to his security clearance.

Kaplan said the investigation examined court records, but not the Seattle police reports because that department and others had not provided those reports in the past. Washington state court records were checked, she said, and indicated a malicious mischief allegation concerning Alexis had been dismissed.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) echoed other members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when she said the lack of contact with the police department was a “shocking revelation.”

Court records do not always indicate the complete story, she and other senators said. McCaskill said there is a “lot of checking boxes” in the security clearance process, but not enough quality control.

federaldiary@washpost.com

Twitter: @JoeDavidsonWP

Joe Davidson writes the Federal Diary, a column about federal government and workplace issues that celebrated its 80th birthday in November 2012. Davidson previously was an assistant city editor at The Washington Post and a Washington and foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal, where he covered federal agencies and political campaigns.

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