USIS is under a federal investigation into possible criminal violations involving its oversight of background checks, the AP reported in July. USIS dominates the background check industry, taking in $195 million in government payments last year and more than $215 million this year.
Alexis’ employer said it had had no personnel problems with him and two separate background checks revealed only a traffic violation. But there were trouble signs below the surface. Public records databases used in those kinds of searches can be spotty repositories of arrest records, court dockets and other information.
“The only thing that the security-clearance process is intended to protect is the security of the United States,” said Shlomo Katz, a government contracts lawyer who has been issued a clearance himself and is an expert on the process. “The system is not designed to protect the lives of our co-workers, and therefore I don’t view it as a failure of the system.”
Alexis’ employer — and possibly the government — missed how, in September 2010, Alexis’ neighbor called police in Fort Worth, Texas, after she said she was nearly struck by a bullet shot from his downstairs apartment. When police confronted Alexis about the shooting, he said he was cleaning his gun when it accidentally discharged. Alexis was arrested on suspicion of discharging a firearm within city limits.
The checks also missed how, six years earlier, Seattle police arrested Alexis for shooting the tires of another man’s vehicle in what he later described as an angry “blackout.” Police said two construction workers reported seeing a man, later identified as Alexis, walk out of the home next to their worksite, pull a gun from his waistband and fire three shots into the rear tires of their car before he walked back home.
No charges were filed in either the Fort Worth or Seattle incidents.