Today’s Wall Street Journal has a report on the background screening of the Navy Yard shooter. You may remember there have been many reports about his secret security clearance as well as his passing a NICS background check when he purchased his Remington 870 shotgun. There are also quite a number of reports of his run-in’s with law enforcement in both Washington State and Texas involving firearms as well as reports on his signs of mental illness.
Given all of this, how did he pass his security background checks to join the Navy as well as obtain a secret security clearance as a contractor? That is a question for which military officials are seeking answers.
To put it quite simply, he lied.
Last week, the Office of Personnel Management, the agency in charge of overseeing most federal background security checks, said USIS had conducted a complete investigation of Mr. Alexis, including information on the 2004 arrest.
On Monday, the agency said Mr. Alexis had turned in an incomplete security background form in 2007 that omitted information about the arrest as well as financial problems in his past. After uncovering the problems in the normal course of the examination, investigators asked the Seattle Police Department for information on Mr. Alexis. But the department refused, according to the OPM.
The Seattle Police Department didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
In the 2004 report, Mr. Alexis told Seattle police at the time he shot out a construction worker’s car tires in an “anger fueled” blackout because he believed the man had been mocking him.
But Mr. Alexis told a USIS investigator he had gotten into a parking dispute with construction workers near his Seattle home that escalated to a construction worker putting something into the gas tank of Mr. Alexis’s car. Mr. Alexis said he retaliated by “deflating” the man’s tires, but never mentioned that he did so by firing three shots into the car, according to a copy of the USIS investigation released by the Navy.
This, of course, doesn’t let the Navy off the hook for letting the shooter resign from the Navy with an honorable discharge with “a favorable rating”. His conduct had caused the Navy to reprimand him several times and they had tried to push him out. I can see letting him resign with an honorable discharge just to get rid of a problem. It is the bureaucratic way to deal with problems and there is less paperwork. However, granting him a “favorable rating” made him eligible to re-enlist in the military and probably facilitated his security clearance. As can be seen on the Navy’s NavPers Form 1070/615, an honorable discharge from the Naval Reserve could have been granted without making the seaman eligible for reenlistment.
The bottom line is that the clearance system failed in this case. More importantly, the mental health system in this country has changed in the last 30 or so years that probably the one thing that may have prevented the shootings in the first place – early intervention and involuntary commitment – is almost a thing of the past.