WASHINGTON – Aaron Alexis lied about a 2004 arrest when he joined the Navy in 2007. And an expert on national security clearances says this alone should have been a disqualifier for the man who would go on to become the Navy Yard shooter.
“A deliberate falsification in the security clearance application process is generally considered the most serious issue that can be raised,” says Sheldon Cohen, a national security clearance lawyer with nearly 50 years of experience in the field.
The question on form 86 for a national security position was clear: “In the past seven years have you been arrested by any police officer, sheriff, marshal or any other type of law enforcement official?”
Alexis answered “no” despite his 2004 arrest in Seattle for malicious mischief and shooting.
“The attitude is if you can’t be trusted in applying for a clearance, what can we trust you with,” Cohen says about the seriousness of Alexis’ misrepresentation.
Casting worse light on the national security process, the Office of Personnel Management learned of Alexis’ lie, went to his Navy base in Michigan to interview him, then failed to tell the Navy that Alexis’ 2004 arrest included the use of a gun.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for several reviews after the shooting, which led to the deaths of 12 people plus Alexis, including a look at what behavior issues could trigger a re- evaluation a person’s clearance.