Two days after twelve victims were killed and the shooter was put down the incident has already started to fade from the national memory and is getting little attention from the media. Perhaps that is because no children were murdered; perhaps that is because no assault rifle was employed by Aaron Alexis; perhaps it is that he didn’t fit the profile of a serial shooter that being a young white male; perhaps it is that he didn’t seem to have a cause he was championing but may just have been a victim of mental illness.
Aaron Alexis’ life, or such of it as we have learned, isn’t really all that interesting. And the media need to have an interesting story, hopefully replete with lurid past actions which allow the viewer to salivate over all the sordid details. And the victims – well we have their names, their pictures, their ages, and very little attention has been paid to their lives or the devestation their families must be experiencing. They’re even less interesting than Mr. Alexis. They were just very ordinary people who went to work and were shot dead. How dull does it get?
The one area of focus seems to be centered around a conversation of the fact that as a contractor for the Navy, Mr. Alexis had a valid, current security clearance to get on the base. Supposedly, this is a rigorous process and a person’s entire life is subject to inquiry. One can only wonder how rigorous this policy actually is – since at least three different episodes in which Alexis was involved have surfaced which a reasonable person might consider merited further investigation before issuing that clearance.
By now we all know that he shot a hole through the ceiling of his apartment which entered his upstairs neighbor’s apartment. She claims that he complained about her playing music too loudly. He says he was cleaning the weapon and it accidentally discharged. No charges were filed.
In Seattle, he apparently shot another motorist’s tire three times. The police investigated and sent a report to the City Attorney for review to see whether the city should prosecute. Supposedly, the file got lost and nothing came of the episode.
Last, Mr. Alexis said that he was being bombarded with voices and hadn’t been able to sleep because they were constantly urging him to violence. Apparently, the voices got their wish.
This is a moment in time when many have acceded to the notion that the bigger the amount of government, the better. Unfortunately, as every business person knows, the bigger you get, the more difficult it is to manage efficiently. And that is in an environment where your personal livelihood is at stake. When you are not subject to any oversight and whether you perform well or poorly has no influence on the amount of your paycheck – well, we taxpayers may not be getting what we pay for.
With the expansion in the number of government employees and contractors it is not surprising that security clearance checks may not be as thorough as they should be due to sheer volume. But there are other factors involved both in the clearance process as well as in our overall regulatory environment which might have contributed to the tragedy at the Navy Yard.
A long time ago, I learned that checking a person’s professional and personal references was a waste of time. The reason – the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The only time I placed any faith in a reference was if it was for a white male – not one of the officially “protected classes” of people. Other than for those prospective employees, I understood that former employers were too concerned about possible litigation should they give a bad, albeit truthful, reference.
And so what happens? An employee who might have embezzled, been guilty of sexual harassment or who know what else would get a fine reference. This, of course, benefited the former employer by avoiding the possibility of a lawsuit. And, should the employee get a new position, it lowered their claims’ experience for unemployment insurance, thus lowering their rates and saving them money. And that employee, unlikely to have reformed, probably continues the same behavior causing the same problems for the next employer.
Certainly, if I were an employer being asked about a prospective government employee for a security clearance, I would have to pause and ask myself, “How much information should I divulge? After all – these investigators and those at the EEOC both are on the same payroll.”
Even if a person were to have a background that was truly clean of any imperfections or suggestive behavior, we know that there are life events which can change a person almost instantaneously. So having a security clearance is no absolute assurance that a Mr. Alexis won’t make it on a secure base and perpetrate the crimes that he committed.
Besides improving the vetting process for security clearance, is there anything that could be done to mitigate the damage done at Washington’s Navy Yard – or for that matter, that would have mitigated the tragedy of Ft. Hood? In respect to that we might look to the Executive Order issued by former President Bill Clinton in 1993 – declaring that military bases and government facilities should be “Gun Free Zones.”
What logic may have originally applied twenty years ago is certainly lost today. I think that there would probably be a lot more robberies of Brinks trucks if the thieves knew that the Brinks guards no longer carried side arms but were equipped only with pea shooters. One can only wonder how many fewer might have died either at Ft. Hood or the Navy Yard if personnel who were licensed and trained in the use of weaponry had access to those weapons and might have taken down Nidal Hassan or Aaron Alexis earlier than they were subdued or killed.
Given President Obama’s virulent anti-gun posture, it is unlikely that he will issue an Executive Order repealing the earlier one promulgated by Clinton. Allowing armed, authorized personnel in our government facilities might be the best and most expedient deterrent that we could enact to avoid repetitions of these mass shootings.
But then, given the fact that President Obama is unwilling to release even his college or law school transcripts; his relationship with Bill Ayers – formerly of the virulent anti-war group the Weathermen which took responsibility for 12 bombings; and his relationship with Communist Frank Marshall Davis who swore an oath to the USSR – that is Stalin’s USSR – it’s unclear that even under today’s liberal standards for security clearance whether the Commander in Chief himself would qualify to receive one.