Security clearance eligibility should be reviewed more often to catch mental issues that may develop after a clearance is issued, said one senator on the intelligence committee.
“One step that can be taken immediately is ensuring that criminal databases and the terrorist watch lists are always consulted and that there’s some sort of continuous monitoring that would pick up problems rather than waiting as long as five or 10 years to review security clearances,” said Sen. Susan Collins, Maine Republican, on CNN’s “New Day” on Wednesday morning.
She discussed security clearance screening in light of the shooting earlier this week at the Washington Navy Yard, where contractor Aaron Alexis had a valid ID to access base after a checkered past, including saying that he heard voices and shooting a firearm through his ceiling into the above apartment.
Ms. Collins called it “inexcusable” that Alexis’ security clearance was not immediately revoked when these incidents happened. The FBI identified Alexis as the person who shot and killed 12 in the Navy Yard before being killed himself in a shootout with police on Monday.
Ms. Collins called for a congressional investigation into how security clearances are issued, as well as a look at if too many background checks are being outsourced to private companies. She also suggested the intelligence committee expand the work they are already doing to determine how Edward Snowden, who leaked details about surveillance in the U.S., got such a high-level security clearance.
Another member of Congress, California Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, also commented on the overlap with an investigation on Mr. Snowden. He talked about the importance of getting updated information in the system to allow clearances to be revoked or not reissued.
“Standing by and accepting that this will become the new normal in America, we can not let that happen,” Mr. Schiff said on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” on Wednesday morning.
He talked about the need to improve the screening process, as well as make progress on mental health services and the link to access in firearms, but also said that he believes the government is “too reliant” on contractors.
“I think we do use contractors too much. We are too reliant on them,” he said. “There will be areas where we continue to rely on contractors, but we have to find a more vigorous way to screen them.”