The revelations about Alexis’s troubled past — and his ability to pass the government’s security-check system — prompted multiple examinations Tuesday into how background checks are conducted and how long a security clearance can last without review. The system was already under scrutiny after leaks of classified documents by fugitive National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
President Obama directed his budget office to conduct a government-wide review of security standards for contractors and employees across federal agencies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also ordered a broad review into security and access to military installations worldwide.
More than 24 hours after the deadly rampage, there was still widespread confusion over how Alexis managed to escape scrutiny since being given access to classified materials and facilities five years ago. The private contractor that most recently employed him pointed the finger at the Defense Department, which defended its handling of the case.
Alexis was granted secret-level security clearance in March 2008, when he was working as a full-time Navy reservist, according to the Pentagon. He was discharged from the Navy in January 2011 after a series of run-ins with his military superiors and police.
In September 2012, a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor called The Experts hired Alexis and said it confirmed his security clearance with the Defense Department. Thomas Hoshko, the company’s chief executive, said he confirmed the status again in late June of this year, when Alexis returned to work for the firm after a brief hiatus.
A background check done by a private contractor at the time turned up only a minor traffic violation, according to Hoshko. “It came back clean,” he said.
Alexis worked as a subcontractor helping to update and replace computers for Navy and Marine Corps installations. Since July, the 34-year-old had worked at six different naval locations, including facilities in Arlington, Va., Cherry Point, N.C., and Stafford, Va. He worked at the Navy Yard for several days before the shooting.
It is unclear why the Defense Department approved Alexis’s security clearance after his 2004 arrest in Seattle for shooting out the tires of a car. Thomas Richards, a spokesman for the Office of Personnel Management, said the office conducted only one security review of Alexis, in 2007, and that it turned up his 2004 arrest in Seattle.
He maintained his clearance despite more recent brushes with the law and a pattern of misconduct that preceded his discharge from the Navy. Alexis was arrested on charges of disorderly conduct in DeKalb County, Ga., in 2008, and after he fired a shot into his apartment ceiling in Texas in 2010.