Report on Navy Yard killings says Pentagon must focus more on defeating insider threats

The Associated Press

FILE - This Sept. 17, 2013 file photo shows an armed officer who said he is with the Defense Department, standing near guard the gate at the Washington Navy Yard the day after a gunman launched an attack inside the Yard. An independent review triggered by the Washington Navy Yard killings last year says threats to Defense Department personnel and facilities increasingly are coming from within. It says the department must rethink its outdated security theory that suggests defending the perimeters can keep threats away. Instead, it says that terrorism, espionage and even physical threats are coming from trusted insiders. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

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Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., said the reports underscore the need for their legislation, which calls for automated reviews of public databases for information about workers who have security clearances. The bill would require OPM to implement the automated reviews that would search the databases at random times at least twice every five years.

"There is a gaping hole in the current security clearance process that has enabled people who exhibit obvious signs of high-risk behavior to remain undetected," said Collins, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

While the reviews were ordered as a result of the Navy Yard shootings, they reflect the same worries that surfaced after the massive intelligence leaks by former National Security Agency contract systems analyst Edward Snowden and Army Pvt. Chelsea Manning, formerly known as Bradley Manning.

Security clearances are currently reviewed every five or 10 years, depending on the clearance level.

That approach, said Marcel Lettre, principal defense undersecretary for intelligence, "limits our ability to understand the evolution that may occur in a person's life that may have them evolve from a trusted insider to an ... insider threat."

The department is looking to phase in a system for continuous evaluations of employees holding clearances, he said.

The benefit of more frequent reviews was proven in a recent pilot program that looked at nearly 3,400 Army service members, civilian workers and contractors. The checks identified 731 people — nearly 22 percent — with previously unreported "derogatory" information. Of those, 99 had what were considered serious problems, including financial issues, domestic abuse, drug abuse or prostitution. The Army revoked the clearances of 55 people and suspended the access of 44 others.


Associated Press writers Stephen Braun and Robert Burns contributed to this report.

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