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Investigation says Navy Yard rampage could have been prevented

WASHINGTON - A mentally troubled gunman who killed a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard last fall could have been stopped if his employer had reported his strange behavior to the government, a Navy investigation released Tuesday concluded.

In response, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the Pentagon to check names of people with security clearances and approved access to military facilities against law enforcement databases, and to create an "insider threat management and analysis center."

The investigation identified "troubling gaps" in the Pentagon’s ability to respond when a government employee, a member of the military or a civilian contractor "decides to inflict harm on this institution and its people," Hagel told a Pentagon news conference.

Aaron Alexis, 34, had a secret-level security clearance and was working under contract as a computer technician at the Navy Yard, in southeast Washington, when he went on a shooting rampage on Sept. 16 with a sawed-off shotgun. The former sailor killed 12 people and wounded three others before he was shot and killed by police.

The massacre "would have been interrupted" if Alexis' supervisors at the Experts, an information technology consulting firm, had informed authorities of their concerns about his mental state, the Navy investigation found.

A formal report may have triggered the cancellation of Alexis' security clearance, rendering him unable to work on the contract. The military could have revoked Alexis' access to Navy facilities and to classified information.

The investigation, led by Adm. John M. Richardson, also concluded that the Navy and the Defense Department repeatedly failed to follow their own rules for monitoring Alexis, both when he was in the Navy from 2007 to 2011, and when he worked as a contractor.

The Navy did not investigate gaps uncovered in a background investigation of Alexis before he received his security clearance, according to the report. The Pentagon also did not "exercise effective oversight" of contractors working on Navy and Marine Corps computer systems, it said.

Several weeks before the Navy Yard shooting, executives at the Experts had convened a meeting to discuss Alexis, who was then working at a Navy facility in Rhode Island. Alexis had reported hearing voices, being followed by three people, and that he was being "pinned to his bed" by an "ultrasonic device."

Police called to Alexis' hotel in Rhode Island had "learned that Alexis had taken his bed apart, believing someone was hiding under it, and observed that Alexis had taped a microphone to the ceiling to record the voices of the people who were following him," the report said.

"The company leadership decided not to inform the government of adverse information concerning Alexis' emotional, mental or personality condition, even when they had concerns he might cause harm to others," the Navy investigation found.

The company decided the information was "based on innuendo and rumor, and therefore a report to the government should not be made, since doing so may infringe on Alexis' privacy rights," according to the Navy report.

The Experts, based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., did not return a call Tuesday seeking comment.

The Navy report also faulted HP Enterprise Services, based in Plano, Texas, which was the primary contractor, for not reporting Alexis' problems. The Experts was a subcontractor to them.

After the meeting, the Experts ordered Alexis to return home to Fort Worth to rest. A few weeks later he resumed work for the company at multiple locations, including the Navy Yard. He carried out the massacre two days after he bought a shotgun at a suburban Virginia gun shop.

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