How did killer get security pass?

Washington Navy Yard shootings: US facing tough questions over security

The US Navy is facing tough questions after it emerged that the gunman who killed 12 people in the W

ashington Navy Yard was given a security clearance despite a recent history of mental illness and arrests for firing guns in anger.

An armed police officer checks a driver's papers at an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard this morning

An armed police officer checks a driver’s papers at an entrance to the Washington Navy Yard this morning Photo: MARK WILSON/GETTY IMAGES

By Raf Sanchez, and Peter Foster in Washington

8:35PM BST 17 Sep 2013

Senior members of Congress demanded answers over the failed vetting of Aaron Alexis and called on the military to explain to explain how the 34-year-old former Navy reservist turned civilian contractor was granted a “secret” level clearance.

As police finished formally identifying the victims of Monday’s shooting rampage, US officials said that as recently as last month Alexis had been treated in a veterans’ hospital after hearing voices in his head.

Police reports also showed that Alexis had spent time in jail for disorderly conduct in 2008 and twice been arrested for shooting a gun in a moment of rage — in one incident sending a bullet through the roof of his flat in Texas after a row with a noisy neighbour.

“How could a man with that kind of a background end up getting the necessary security clearance for a military contractor to go into this navy yard?” Dick Durbin, a senior Democrat demanded to know on the floor of the Senate.

The FBI confirmed that Alexis, who was working as an IT contractor upgrading computers for the Marine Corps, was able to use a legitimate work pass to drive into the Washington Navy Yard, one of the US Navy’s five main command centres.

The US Navy also announced a worldwide review of security at its bases.

Alexis appears to have begun his assault armed only with a shotgun that he purchased legally in the neighbouring state of Virginia last week.

He is now believed to have picked up an AR-15, the same semi-automatic rifle used in the Newtown massacre, and a Glock handgun during the shooting spree. Investigators believe most of the killing was done with the AR-15.

The entrance pass was issued even though Alexis was undergoing treatment for paranoia, sleep disorders and had been hearing voices in his head, according to the Associated Press.

It emerged last night that Alexis had also been cited for misconduct eight times during his four year-career as a Navy reservist, including one incident where he hurled obscenities after being thrown out of a nightclub.

“It really is hard to believe that someone with a record as checkered as this man could conceivably get, you know, clearance to get … credentials to be able to get on the base,” Washington Mayor Vincent Gray While Navy officials had make Alexis tried to kick him out of the service they found it was quicker to let him leave of his own accord with an honourable discharge in January 2011.

The Navy had not declared its defense contract employee mentally unfit, which would have rescinded a security clearance that Alexis had from his earlier time in the Navy Reserves.

The officials also said there has been no connection to international or domestic terrorism, and investigators have found no manifesto or other writings suggesting a political or religious motivation.

He was able to gain a secret-level clearance from the Department of Defence and began work at IT firm called The Experts, a Hewlett-Packard subcontractor, which did work on Navy computer systems.

He did work in Japan and at bases throughout the US before being sent to the Washington Navy Yard in the last week.

The yard was closed to all but essential personnel on Tuesday. Military police were stationed at the four entrances, checking the identifications of the employees who were being allowed back in. Other personnel milled around outside, hoping to retrieve cars that remained locked inside the gates.

“I’ve never ever felt unsafe at this place,” said David Berlin, a civilian who works there as an assistant program manager building weapons systems. “If someone wants to skirt the rules, they can do that, but you trust your colleagues.”

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