Navy Yard security called terrible E-mail
Written by Mark Nichols   

Another day, another mass shooting. Network news anchors relying on Twitter were identifying suspects and then retracting those statement minutes later. The gun rights crowd and the gun-grabbers are already at fever pitch. It’s all very familiar. But according to an article by James Rosen from McClatchy Washington Bureau, one subject that should be getting attention will most likely be lost in the culture war shuffle- basic security protocols at the facility. According to Mr. Rosen’s article, “The Washington Navy Yard, a former shipyard where Monday’s fatal shootings occurred, has a history of weak security with past reports citing poor entrance controls, video dead spots, inadequate lighting, malfunctioning alarms and other problems.”

Would better security measures have made a difference? It’s an important question well worth asking.

James Atkinson is a former military intelligence officer. He now runs Granite Island Group in Gloucester, Massachusetts. Atkinson says the Navy hired his company in 2009 to test newly installed electronic security gates and other systems.

The results were alarming. A “controlled penetration” test indicated that a tamper sensor wasn’t working because of a design defect and that hardware store-variety screws had been used to secure the main access-control panel. The Navy should have used more expensive screws that could only be removed with a specific screwdriver, Atkinson said.
“We found not only had people opened it up, but there were traces that somebody had placed a device inside that was recording data, so somebody could hoax the unit and claim to be a person they were not,” Atkinson said.

But that was just one of the glaring security problems.

In two dozen other tests Atkinson’s firm found basic security lapses throughout the facility. Doors that should have functioning locks were instead jammed open with pieces of cardboard. Video cameras, the few that there were had been pointed at the floor or other cameras.

“The security there is extraordinarily poor,” Atkinson told Rosen in a recent interview.

“They need more cameras, better door security, better lighting. The access controls were appalling. The Washington Navy Yard has security that is below the level of security you see at Harvard or MIT (the Massachusetts Institute of Technology) or Boston University or any other major campus.”

Mo Schumann, a Pentagon spokesman, would not discuss security at the Washington Navy Yard but he did have some talking points.

“Since the shootings at Fort Hood, the Department of Defense has taken a number of steps to harden our facilities and establish new systems to prevent and respond to active shooter threats,” Schumann said, referring to a 2009 shooting at an Army base in Texas that left 12 dead and 31 wounded.

A civilian employee that did not want to be named who’s worked at the Navy Yard for years said security upgrades are long overdue.

“They’ll check your badge and they’ll check your car to make sure it has a Naval District of Washington current sticker, but you can drive through the base with a bazooka in your trunk and they wouldn’t know,” said the employee, who asked not to be identified in order to speak candidly.

“They don’t check inside the car,” he said. “You can drive in with a ham sandwich, a banana and a pistol in your lunch bag, and they don’t check. It’s pretty bad.”

Considering the volume of personnel that work at the former shipyard, as well as the agencies that have offices there, beefing up security seems like common sense.

Among the agencies that have leased offices in the Navy Yard are CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency.

A retired admiral, who also requested anonymity in order to speak honestly, said public access is a big problem.

“They’ve always tried to find the sweet spot between enhanced security and providing access,” the admiral said. “If people wanted to come up (the river) in a dingy and go over the seawall, it wouldn’t be overly challenging. But that’s true in a lot of (military) facilities. There are access points to (nearby) Fort McNair and Fort Myer with relatively low walls that are patrolled episodically. We have not garrisoned our military installations. In fact, there is a whole school of thought that says why make military facilities hard targets when terrorists are more likely to hit an elementary school or a hospital.”

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, delegate to the House of Representatives from the District of Columbia said she did not think there were any security problems.

“The (Navy Yard) facility is one of the most secure facilities in the District of Columbia,” she said.

Now politicians are usually pretty clueless but if Mrs. Norton Holmes assment is correct, that's a pretty terrifying prospect for those that work in the Beltway.

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