How Aaron Alexis Slipped By
Company that hired him says it's 'sad' he passed background check
By Kevin Spak, Newser User
Posted Sep 18, 2013 7:54 AM CDT
This undated photo provided by Kristi Suthamtewakul shows Aaron Alexis.   (AP Photo/Courtesy of Kristi Suthamtewakul)

(Newser) – How did a guy who heard voices, felt microwaves, and had multiple gun arrests get security clearance? That's a question lawmakers, and Aaron Alexis' former employer, are asking today. "We would not have hired him" if we'd known, the CEO of The Experts tells the Washington Post. "If I can find this out just by doing a Google search, that is sad." The Defense Department checked Alexis once, in 2007. That check turned up his 2004 arrest for shooting out a car's tires, but Alexis passed the low bar for "Secret" clearance anyway.

Secret clearance is generally good for 10 years, even if someone leaves the military. Alexis' Navy record included several unauthorized absences from duty, insubordination complaints, and failed inspections, an official tells the LA Times, but the Navy discharged him honorably—albeit barely—anyway. His arrests never resulted in charges being filed that would show up on a background check, and he was never committed for his mental health problems, the New York Times points out—though Rhode Island authorities did alert the Navy about the "microwave machine" incident, CBS notes.

For more on the gnashing of teeth over security procedures, click here and here. In other Alexis revelations:

  • Alexis was so frustrated with America that he was "ready to move out of the country" last year, friend and former co-landlord Kristi Suthamtewkal tells NBC News. "He was tired of dealing with the government." Instead, he moved to Virginia and joined The Experts.
  • Alexis was working in the shadow of the Twin Towers when the 9/11 attacks hit. Investigators can't verify his father's claim that he helped in the recovery effort, but Suthamtewkal says he talked often about "where he was and how the buildings had collapsed and … how he was upset with the terrorists for taking innocent lives."

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Sep 18, 2013 3:35 PM CDT
I feel terrible for this guy. He was obviously trying to get help, from his visits to the VA, to his attempts to put the lid on his volcano with Buddhist meditation. Paranoid schizophrenia is an exhausting illness, and after a while, you just cannot reason away the voices and compulsions. He is probably a really nice guy when not crazy. What he needs is meds and a very structured support system. Prison will be the worst place for him, and as a clear victim of his illness, he deserves better.
Sep 18, 2013 2:27 PM CDT
Background checks will not stop someone if they want to kill. Background checks are a joke .
Sep 18, 2013 9:58 AM CDT
We can waste a trillion in the Middle East but our government can seem to get its' act together and work to recognize that mental health is a problem and people need to be treated and their guns rights restricted. Background checks need to be effective and under federal control and not left up to the states. Gun sales should be closely regulated with a new background check with every sale. Private sales should be conducted through a federally licensed gun dealer--again with a background check for every sale. Failure to do so should be a crime for the seller.