- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Administration officials said Tuesday that they would welcome steps to force local police departments to cooperate with federal background investigations, saying it could help spot red flags that should prevent some people from getting approved for “secret” or “top secret” access.

Officials also signaled they will be shortening the period between reviews of someone’s clearance, and want to see continual evaluations as well — both of which might have helped prevent Aaron Alexis from gaining access to the Navy Yard last year, where he shot and killed 12 people.

In the wake of a new report from House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Republicans showing a number of breakdowns in the security-clearance process, lawmakers said they are determined to force changes.

“This is a problem of bureaucracy, longstanding, but no longer can we stand for it,” said committee Chairman Darrell Issa, California Republican.

Alexis was approved for secret clearance in 2008 and five years later used that clearance to gain access to the Navy Yard, where he went on his murderous rampage.

His clearance came despite previous arrests for violent encounters involving guns, a history of misconduct in the Navy and, in the month before the shooting, visits to Veterans Affairs hospitals where he complained of insomnia and other problems — though he assured doctors he was not having psychological issues.

Details from a 2004 arrest in Seattle, in which he admitted to a rage-fueled “blackout” and shot out the tires of a car, were never uncovered by background investigators because the local police department didn’t cooperate.

Seattle began cooperating with investigators in 2011, said Katherine Archuleta, director of the federal Office of Personnel Management, which oversees background investigations.

But there are 450 other jurisdictions that don’t fully cooperate, including Los Angeles and New York City, according to a January list.

“That’s an extraordinary hole in the system,” said Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, Virginia Democrat, who said without complete police reports, it’s possible that investigators miss reports of child predators or other deviant behavior.

Requests for comment from New York and Los Angeles police departments weren’t returned Tuesday.

The District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department was also on the list, though Ms. Archuleta said the District has recently agreed to cooperate and provide information to investigators.

Mr. Issa has proposed withholding some federal funds from police departments that refuse to cooperate, and Ms. Archuleta said the administration would be open to that idea.

Members of Congress also said they would like to see investigators be free to use Google or make other checks of social media in the course of their investigations. That is currently prohibited.

Ms. Archuleta said they are reviewing their policy, but they are wrestling with how to validate the information found online.

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