September 19, 2013

Hagel orders two reviews in response to shooting

The Associated Press

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey speak during a press conference on military base security on Wednesday at the Pentagon.

AP

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A "secret" clearance is held by nearly 4 million people, the government's lowest classified clearance.

Although he had been arrested he was never convicted of any crime. And the fact that he was undergoing mental health treatment also would not affect his status, nor did the most recent incident in Rhode Island when he told police that he could hear voices talking to him through the walls and ceilings of his hotel room.

Navy officials said the Newport, R.I., police reported the incident to officers at the base security office, but nothing more was done about it because he did not appear to be a threat to himself or anyone else at the time.

The Veterans Affairs Department has told lawmakers that Alexis visited two VA hospitals in late August complaining of insomnia, but that he denied struggling with anxiety or depression or had thoughts of harming himself or others. Defense officials described a balancing act in which the military tries to collect enough information about individuals to provide security, but not enough to sacrifice workers' privacy or personal health records.

The officials said that it takes a "derogatory" incident to trigger review or revocation of someone's security clearance or access card. And they acknowledged that the standard is deliberately vague so that it can allow for individual circumstances. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the security process publicly by name.

Alexis had received his secret level security clearance when he was a Navy reservist in 2008, and that status is valid for 10 years.

On Capitol Hill, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations, told lawmakers that cost issues, including the latest budget crisis, did not affect the base's security.

At the Pentagon, Hagel said that while "we don't live in a risk-free society," employees deserve a safe and secure work environment.

And, he said, "obviously, something went wrong" on Monday.

He said he has ordered the Pentagon to review the physical security and access procedures at all U.S. defense facilities worldwide as well as a study of the programs used for granting and renewing the security clearances for the military, civilian employees and contractors.

And he also has asked an independent panel to undertake the same reviews, vowing that, "where there are gaps, we will close them."

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