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September 19, 2013

Local 'intel expert' cited in Navy Yard security report

WASHINGTON — A national story spotlighting alleged serious gaps in security systems at The Washington Navy Yard, scene of Monday’s deadly D.C. shootings, is anchored in comments by a reported security expert and former military intelligence officer.

But the expert cited is a Rockport man whose locally-based security intelligence and security business have been the target of investigations and credibility questions over the last four years.

James Atkinson, who heads a business called Granite Island Group based at 127 Eastern Ave., Gloucester, told the McClatchy News Service that the Navy hired his surveillance security firm in 2009 to test newly installed electronic security gates and other access controls inside the Navy Yard’s Building 197. That was the scene of Monday’s shootings that have left 13 people dead, including apparent shooter Aaron Alexis, a troubled former Navy reservist from Texas.

According to Atkinson, the Navy Yard has a history of weak security, with past reports citing poor entrance controls, video dead spots, inadequate lighting, malfunctioning alarms and other problems.

The “controlled penetration” test Atkinson says his firm carried out revealed 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 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 told the news service.

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 at night.

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