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Pentagon review says Navy Yard shooting could have been avoided

By Reuters
Tuesday, March 18, 2014 13:31 EDT
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US defense minister Chuck Hagel gives a press conference at the NATO headquarters in Brussels (AFP)
 
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By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered new Pentagon security procedures on Tuesday after reviews found last year’s deadly Navy Yard shooting could have been averted if concerns about the gunman’s mental health been properly addressed.

Hagel told a Pentagon news conference the reviews found “troubling gaps” in the Defense Department’s ability to “detect, prevent and respond to instances where someone working for us, a government employee, member of our military, or a contractor, decides to inflict harm on this institution and its people.”

A Navy review of the attack, which killed 12 people, found the gunman’s employer failed to inform the government it had concerns about his mental condition. The report said the Navy itself had earlier failed to properly evaluate and report the behavior of the shooter, Aaron Alexis, who was working for a defense contractor and entered the facility using his access card.

Alexis, a former sailor, had reported hearing voices and being unable to sleep in the weeks leading up to the Navy Yard shooting rampage. He also had prior brushes with the law after firing a gun but the charges against him were dropped.

The Navy review concluded that leaders of the information technology company The Experts “specifically … decided not to inform the government of adverse information concerning Alexis’ emotional, mental, or personality condition,” even though they had concerns that Alexis might cause harm to others.

“This information was not reported to the government as required,” the Navy review found. “Had this information been reported, properly adjudicated and acted upon, Alexis’ authorization to access secure facilities and information would have been revoked.”

A separate, independent review, carried out at Hagel’s request, concluded the Pentagon grants far too many people secret security clearances, as it did to Alexis, even though he never needed it to perform his Navy job.

The clearance in turn helped him obtain employment once he left the Navy with a defense contractor working on secret-level information systems at the Washington Navy Yard.

Alexis, 34, entered that base the morning of September 16 carrying a concealed sawed-off shotgun, the Navy report found. He killed 12 people and wounding four before being slain by police an hour and 10 minutes after first opening fire.

(Editing by Bill Trott)

Reuters
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