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Alexis‘ secret clearance is more restrictive than a top-secret designation, which allows the holder wider access into the nation’s classified world.

A secret clearance can be issued within a week or a few months.

In conducting a security clearance background check, the government requires an applicant’s Social Security number and address, and examines the person’s credit history and work experience going back 10 years. It also requires at least three character references and three work references from a manager and co-workers.

Investigators would have been required to check Alexis‘ military and criminal records, but his honorable discharge would have weighed heavily in his favor in obtaining a clearance. A less-than-honorable discharge, which the Navy initially sought, would have triggered a more thorough review of his personnel file.

In addition, although Alexis was arrested on a gun-related charge in Seattle in 2004, he was not convicted of a crime. He enlisted in the Navy Reserve in 2007.

The Pentagon relied on his secret clearance when he left the Navy in 2011 and began working as a contractor in the defense industry, a defense official said late Tuesday. There was no re-investigation, so he continued to hold the clearance as a computer technician based on background checks conducted in 2007.

Mr. Alexis was initially granted eligibility as a Navy reservist,” the official said on background. “In accordance with national reciprocity standards, his eligibility was reciprocally accepted when he moved to Industry. In the absence of unadjudicated derogatory information and/or a break in employment greater than 24 months, contractors may be reciprocally granted eligibility and access based on an existing eligibility.”

The official said regulations required only that Mr. Alexis be reinvestigated every 10 years.

“The ultimate determination of whether the granting or continuing of national security eligibility is clearly consistent with the interests of national security is based on an overall common-sense judgment taking into account behaviors associated with the adjudicative guidelines and evaluated in the context of the whole person,” the official said.

His clearance was issued by the Pentagon’s Defense Security Service. A spokeswoman for the agency declined to comment Tuesday.

Alexis worked as a computer technician for the firm The Experts, on a subcontract from Hewlett-Packard.

FBI Assistant Director Valerie Parlave said Tuesday that Alexis gained access to the Navy Yard with a “valid pass.”

Flawed system

In a report Tuesday, the Pentagon’s acting inspector general said the security system for screening Navy contractors had issued credentials to 52 felons, placing “military personnel, dependents, civilians and installations at an increased security risk.”

The Navy Commercial Access Control System (NCACS) allowed numerous contractors to access bases “without having their identities vetted through mandatory authoritative databases, such as the National Crime Information Center database and the Terrorist Screening Database,” the report said.

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