Pentagon orders security review after base deaths

AFP, WASHINGTON

Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - Page 7

The Pentagon was reviewing security at US bases worldwide yesterday after a defense contractor gunned down 12 people in Washington, as investigators worked to uncover the shooter’s motive.

US military officials, who announced the security review on Tuesday, were struggling to answer how and why 34-year-old Aaron Alexis — a former sailor with a history of disciplinary problems and brushes with the law — had been granted security clearance.

Alexis opened fire on Monday at the tightly guarded Washington Navy Yard, where he had a valid entry pass, the FBI said. He eventually died in a shootout with police at the giant compound.

With lawmakers questioning the vetting of contractors, US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel “intends to order a review of physical security and access at all DoD [Department of Defense] installations worldwide,” a senior official said.

The White House said US President Barack Obama also ordered a review into security standards for contractors at federal agencies.

Monday’s mass shooting left federal authorities acknowledging that their probe had much to uncover.

“As we have moved from a crisis stage to the investigation stage of this case, our focus and efforts are going to be on the questions we all have,” US federal prosecutor Ronald Machen said. “What caused this individual to kill so many innocent men and women? How did he carry out and plan this attack? How did he get access to the weapons?”

Lawmakers planned to raise security concerns over the shooting at a House Armed Services Committee hearing yesterday, with top commanders — including US Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus — due to appear.

Alexis, a former naval reservist hired as an IT subcontractor by Hewlett-Packard, entered the base on Monday with a legally purchased shotgun, officials confirmed, dispelling earlier reports that he had been armed with an assault rifle.

He arrived in the Washington area on or about Aug. 25 and stayed in local hotels, but his motive remained a mystery, said Valerie Parlave, assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office.

“We continue to conduct interviews, exploit digital media, and run down every lead we can to piece together his recent movements and determine the motive behind his attack,” she said.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, US Navy chief spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said Alexis had not had a “stellar” naval record, but said there were no red flags that would have signaled he was capable of mass murder.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that Alexis suffered from delusions, recounting how he called police in Rhode Island last month complaining about hearing voices.