EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Boston and Beyond

November 1, 2013

Changes pursued in US security clearance system


She acknowledged that it was “problematic, certainly, that there’s information written on a piece of paper somewhere that we didn’t have access to.”

Alexis was granted a clearance in 2008 and maintained it despite subsequent encounters with police, including a 2010 arrest in Texas, where a neighbor told police she was nearly struck by a bullet fired from his downstairs apartment. No charges were filed.

In August, Alexis called Rhode Island police to the hotel where he was staying and complained about voices wanting to harm him, according to a police report.

After the Navy Yard shooting, the FBI said writings recovered in Alexis’s possession showed he believed he was being bombarded with extremely low frequency radio waves.

Senators said they were shocked investigators could sign off on a clearance without pursuing a police report, which may contain more detailed information than is reflected in a court file.

“A prosecutor may not have the elements to make a particular charge and the disposition may tell us nothing. But seeing a prior behavior here with Aaron Alexis, getting a police report, would have flagged a very different set of conduct for anyone looking at that,” said Sen. Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican.

Senators said they were concerned that too much information was classified and too many government contractors have security clearances.

“Many national security experts have long argued that the security clearance process is antiquated and in need of modernization. Given recent events, I think we have to ask whether the system is fundamentally flawed,” said Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat and committee chairman.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation this week to require more frequent checks on government employees and contractors who are awarded security clearances.

The bill requires OPM to do at least two audits of every security clearance at random times over each five years the clearance is in effect.

Surprise audits would send the message that “you never know when the government is going to find out,” so it’s better to come forward with the information voluntarily, said one sponsor, Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri.

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