Congress Working on Better Security-Clearance Rules After Navy Yard Shooting

Sunday, 16 Feb 2014 07:14 PM

By Greg Richter

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A deeply divided Congress has found something it can come together on: better security-clearance rules to try to prevent a repeat of the Navy Yard shooting that left 12 people dead.

The Security Clearance Reform Act of 2014 introduced last week would make reviews of federal employees with security clearances ongoing rather than waiting for years for reviews.

Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old contract employee and former Navy reservist got into the Washington, D.C., military facility in September with a valid ID, and with a gun.

People such as Alexis, who had a "secret" clearance are reinvestigated only every 10 years. "Top secret" clearance holders get a new look every five years.

Members of both parties want to see continuous monitoring of those with security clearances, notes Joe Davidson in The Washington Post. Currently, nearly 5 million government employees have such clearances.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., expressed surprise that Alexis was able to go 10 years without having a review.

"Even the most stable person has incidents in his life . . . that in a decade" could make him mentally questionable to be able to handle state secrets, she said.

Though both sides agree the problem needs solving, Republicans are less eager to take that job out of the hands of private contractors, Davidson notes.

One reason: lack of cooperation from local law enforcement.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., issued a report noting that more than 450 local law enforcement agencies refuse to fully cooperate with security clearance investigations.

"Unfortunately, some of the country’s largest local law enforcement agencies . . . are on that list," the report says. "The Newark Police Department is on the list, with a note that says, 'Will not fulfill any requests other than for law enforcement agencies.'"

D.C. city law does not allow police to share law enforcement information with civilians, Davidson wrote, D.C. police did recently agree to give the information to investigators.

The lack of cooperation cited in Issa’s report does not convince him that federal employees should do all the checks.

"I want to be a little careful not to rush to bring everything in-house, when in fact, we’re not very good in the federal government at increasing or reducing workloads" as private companies, he said.

President Barack Obama signed the OPM IG Act into law this week. That law allows the Office of Personnel Management with more funding to conduct audits and investigations, reports Federal News Radio

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