WASHINGTON — Co-workers, supervisors and associates of Washington Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis raised concerns about his mental health, but those fears were never reported to the government, according to Pentagon investigations into the shootings released Tuesday.
If the contractor for whom Alexis worked had told the government about his troubles, the report said, "Alexis' authorization to access secure facilities and information would have been revoked."
But Alexis' clearance was not revoked, and on Sept. 16, 2013, he entered Building 197 at the Navy Yard with a shotgun and killed 12 people before police shot and killed him. The report also found that security procedures were insufficient at the naval facility near downtown Washington.
A key finding of the report: Leaders of his employer, technology subcontractor The Experts, "decided not to inform the government of adverse information concerning Alexis' emotional, mental, or personality condition, even when they had concerns that Alexis may cause harm to others ..."
A call Tuesday to The Experts, based in Fort Lauderdale, was not immediately returned.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered several changes to Pentagon policy, including automated checks of personnel with access to military facilities or classified information and the establishment of an "Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center."
"Open and free societies are always vulnerable," Hagel said, adding that the Pentagon was doing all it could to keep its facilities safe.
The reports paint a portrait of a troubled young man whose violent outbursts and unreliability was known to his neighbors, police and creditors but never fully explored by the Navy or the contractor who hired him.
Alexis' bizarre behavior was apparent to his supervisors — and to the Navy — when he traveled from Virginia to Rhode Island where he was working for the contractor at the Naval Station Newport on Aug. 4.
A hotel clerk asked Newport naval police to come to the Navy Gateway Inns & Suites in case Alexis hurt someone.
Officers "learned that Alexis had taken apart his bed, believing someone was hiding under it, and observed that Alexis had taped a microphone to the ceiling to record the voices of people that were following him," according to the report. He also complained about a chip in his head and microwave signals.
Officials at The Experts contacted local police and Alexis' mother about his behavior but concluded that that "the information collected about Alexis was based on rumor and innuendo, and therefore a report to the government should not be made, since doing so may infringe on Alexis' privacy rights."
The report also found fault with the Navy for not properly monitoring Alexis, a former sailor. If proper procedures had been followed, "the chain of events that led to the (Navy Yard) shooting incident on September 16, 2013, may have been interrupted, earlier in Alexis' career."
Paul Stockton, a co-leader of an independent review of the shooting, said insider threats must be the focus for providing security at military facilities. For too long, he said, efforts have focused on building fences.
Cyberthreats, from the inside, are growing, he said. One issue is that "far too many people have security clearances" and a significant reduction of those should be made.
Stockton also stressed the need to encourage employees to seek mental health counseling and that the government "needs to go the extra mile" to assure those seeking help that their careers will not be derailed.
In the end, Adm. John Richardson, who led the Navy review, said the "primary responsibility rests with Aaron Alexis."
Nonetheless, by the time Alexis enlisted in the Navy in 2007, he'd already piled up a troubling and documented history of run-ins with police and neighbors and debts that he never repaid, according to the Navy's investigation.
For example, he dropped out of DeVry University in 2004, making only partial payments on several student loans. While living in Seattle, he received six traffic tickets but paid for only one before enlisting. Seattle police arrested him for shooting out the tires on a construction worker's vehicle. He told police the worker had "disrespected him," leading to a "blackout fueled by anger." Charges were dropped. Two years later, police in Bellevue, Wash., named him "an involved person" though not arrested after neighbors complained about tires being slashed on five vehicles.
In 2007, Alexis reported to Navy recruiters "no criminal activity and no indebtedness." That assurance was enough for recruiters who did not run a records check on him, the report says. An FBI report on him showed the Seattle arrest, but since there was "no adverse adjudication," Alexis was deemed "suitable for enlistment."
His problems persisted after he joined the Navy. There was an arrest and jailed in 2008 for disorderly conduct in Georgia when he broke furniture at a night club. The Navy disciplined him for being absent without leave, and the disorderly conduct charge was dismissed. A year later, the Navy disciplined him for drunken behavior and tried to kick him out. In 2010, Fort Worth police arrested him for shooting a gun at his apartment but dropped the charges.
Hagel, on Tuesday, said arrests such as those will now create alerts when authorities screen applicants for security clearances.
The honorable discharge the Navy granted him allowed Alexis to retain his security clearance, a key consideration for contractors hiring for military work. They hired him in 2012, he quit a few months later and was rehired last year.
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