Proposed Security Clearance Reforms Detail Navy Yard Shooter Missteps

Posted by Rob Riggins

87 percent of OPM’s security clearance background investigation files are “incomplete.”

That’s one of the many eye-opening findings in the recently released House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee report detailing flaws in the security clearance process.

Parts of the report are a fascinating read. Particularly the detailed step-by-step red flags in the background of Navy Yard Shooter Aaron Alexis. From arrests for mischief to eight citings for misconduct while in the Navy Reserve, Alexis is a particularly troubling example of how the system can break down.

When the clearance process was last reformed ten years ago the emphasis was on speed. Getting people through the process due to the urgent needs of a country fighting two wars.

An emphasis on speed over thoroughness as well as oddities of the process – law enforcement agencies don’t cooperate? investigators can’t use the internet? – mean that there is broad agreement that it’s time for the clearance process to be reformed.

Some of the report’s proposed fixes include:

Continuous monitoring. Neither Alexis nor his commanding officers reported his questionable conduct after he received a Secret clearance. A lot can happen before a periodic reinvestigation takes place and relying on the parties involved to self-report doesn’t always work.

Allowing investigators to use the internet and social media. The Investigator’s Handbook forbids using the internet to obtain investigative information. This will lead to new issues, but the rewards should outweigh the risks.

Allowing communication between Adjudicators and Investigators. Yes, this doesn’t currently happen.

Assisting investigators in better capturing mental health information. This typically falls through the cracks with an automated Secret clearance evaluation. A Top Secret clearance relies on self-reporting.

Getting better cooperation from local law enforcement cooperation. Over 450 local law enforcement agencies do not cooperate with OPM on background investigations, including New York City, Baltimore and Washington, DC.

Read the full report: Slipping Through the Cracks: How the DC Navy Yard Shooting Exposes Flaws in the Federal Security Clearance Process.


This entry was posted on Thursday, February 20, 2014 10:10 am

7 thoughts on “Proposed Security Clearance Reforms Detail Navy Yard Shooter Missteps”

  1. As an ex-BI the report matches my experiences. Especially with regards to use of the Internet and obtaining info from local Law Enforcement. Problem was Congress gave BIs the right to view Criminal Records, but those are in the court house, not the police station across the street. So you learn about what he has been convicted for (which is often nothing) and the police refuse to tell you about the detentions where the local DA declined prosecution nor even about the active cases being investigated. Likewise if you Google a subject’s name and find an ad from him on (for example) on Craigs List offering to sell Crack, you can’t mention it in your report and I have heard of BIs being chewed out for mentioning it to the Subject and writing what they admit to in the report (poisonous tree doctrine being mis applied). Likewise Heaven forbid you should learn of a felony in progress or recently done involving the Subject. Have had that happen several times. Policy is put it in your report, but you may NOT directly notify local law enforcement.

  2. Hoooooollllyyyy coooow! I knew it was bad but not this bad. Lol but then again there are so many old boys in govt that evolution is not going to happen. People are Afriad of technology and efficiency. Now whether that makes their work load easier some fear it will make then seem less important. Then others fear that if things get too efficient things they have done will be discovered… Ohh nooo actual accountability! This is how things work in govt… Until new generations are allowed to breath logic in it and exhale fear and bureaucracy from it this will continue.

    But seriously…. Self reporting… Lack of communication… This is why I say clearances are over rated. People claim a clearance makes a person a good person… It doesn’t. Can’t change the core of a person by giving them a label.

  3. Convictions are all that matter…no one should have to report arrests, detentions, etc. That places too much power in local law enforcement’s hands that will effect people’s lives, losing a clearance which could then cost a person a job because of a power tripping local law enforcement officer or a DA is unacceptable. Name checks frequently identify the incorrect person, someone with the same name. They should not be used…

    You would in effect be requiring individuals to constantly prove their innocence or clear their name…

    1. Matt, you must be outside the system. You are indeed required to self report any arrests. The issue is whether or not the local authority filed a report about it. In some states they always do, in others sometimes they don’t. That is where the holes dishonest people creep in begin.

  4. Hmm…my most recent PR included a Social Media report. They pulled my public Facebook page, as well as tweets, forum posts and other social media pages.

    1. Bob, all I can say is if that’s true, then Equip has been revised because the last Equip or SF86 I saw had no blanks for list all email addresses you have ever used and all social media pages you have used.

  5. No, I didn’t list anything on my SF86. They found it all on their own. Obviously you could tell they used some service. They also have to figure out a way to correlate the posts/accounts back to you. For my FB profile, which was easy, they just started going through asking if random people on my friends list were US citizens.

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