WASHINGTON (AFP) – U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel acknowledged on Wednesday that authorities missed some “red flags” that might have prevented the deadly mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard.
Hagel made the admission as he announced the details of a sweeping review of security at all military bases in the aftermath of Monday’s attack that left 13 dead, including the gunman, at a naval installation in the heart of Washington.
“Obviously, when you go back in hindsight and look at all this, there were some red flags, of course there were,” Hagel told a news conference.
“And should we have picked them up? Why didn’t we? How could we have? All those questions need to be answered.”
The review ordered by the Pentagon chief will examine physical security at military posts as well as the procedures for vetting those granted security clearances, including outside contractors, Hagel said.
The security clearances issued by the government are under intense scrutiny after the shooting, as the alleged gunman, Aaron Alexis, had a valid pass as a defense subcontractor to enter the Navy Yard.
Alexis got the pass despite a record of misconduct in the Navy and run-ins with the law, including two shooting incidents and a Rhode Island police report showing he had severe delusions.
The ten-year security clearance, which was granted during his stint as a sailor from 2007-2011, remained in force once he left the service under an honorable discharge, according to the Navy.
Navy officials said none of his behavior during his time as a naval reservist would have disqualified him for a security clearance, as he had not been convicted in a military or civilian court for a serious crime and his offenses were not out of the ordinary.
In one incident in Texas, Alexis shot a bullet through his apartment ceiling, reportedly terrifying the woman who lived above him. But he told police it was an accident while he was cleaning his gun and he was not charged for any crime.
Hagel vowed to correct any flaws in security exposed by Monday’s massacre.
“Where there are gaps, we will close them. Where there are inadequacies, we will address them. And where there are failures, we will correct them.
“We owe the victims, their families, and all our people nothing less.”
Asked about the shooting suspect’s ten-year pass, Hagel also said the duration of security clearances should be examined as well.
“Obviously, the longer clearances go without review, there’s some jeopardy to that. There’s no question about it.”
The Navy Yard reopened on Wednesday as the White House announced a memorial service for the victims scheduled for Sunday, which will be attended by President Barack Obama.
“I think the president will want to mourn the loss of these innocent victims and share in the nation’s pain in the aftermath of another senseless mass shooting,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
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