Washington Navy Yard, scene of shooting, had history of poor security

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 5:02am

The Washington Navy Yard where Monday's fatal shootings occurred has a history of weak security, with past reports citing poor entrance controls, video dead spots, inadequate lighting and faulty alarms.

Building 197, which houses the Naval Sea Systems Command headquarters on the 26-hectare campus on the Anacostia River, was the main site of the gunfire in which 13 people died.

James Atkinson, a former military intelligence officer who heads Granite Island Group in Massachusetts, said the navy hired his security firm in 2009 to test newly installed electronic security gates and other access controls inside Building 197.

Atkinson said the "controlled penetration" test revealed that a tamper sensor wasn't working and that hardware-store-variety screws had been used to secure the main access-control panel instead of more expensive screws that could be loosened only with a specific screwdriver.

"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.

More broadly, in two dozen investigations over previous years, Atkinson's firm found major security lapses throughout the facility, such as doors jammed open with pieces of cardboard, "crisscrossed" video cameras pointed at one another, too few cameras and bad lighting.

"The security there is extraordinarily poor," Atkinson said. "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 or Boston University or any other major campus."

Mo Schumann, a Pentagon spokesman, declined to discuss security at the Washington Navy Yard, but said there have been broader security upgrades at military facilities.

"Since the shootings at Fort Hood, the Department of Defence 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 in which 12 people were killed and 31 wounded.