Slatest PM: Looking For Answers on the Stock of a Shotgun

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Sept. 18 2013 4:12 PM

Slatest PM: Looking For Answers on the Stock of a Aaron Alexis' Shotgun

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Cathy Lanier, chief of the Metropolitan Police Department, answers questions on the Navy Yard shooting during a briefing outside the FBI Field Office September 17, 2013 in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

A Message on a Gun: Washington Post: "Aaron Alexis carved bizarre phrases on the stock of his shotgun before he killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, and investigators are hoping the words provide clues to what prompted the shooting, two law enforcement officials said. The phrases were 'Better off this way' and 'My ELF weapon,' according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. The officials cautioned they do not yet know what, if anything, Alexis meant in the etchings."

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Educated Guesses: Los Angeles Times: "The second one, (My ELF), may have been a reference to 'extremely low frequency,' and could refer to his belief that someone was penetrating his brain with microwave messages, which he had described to police in Newport, R.I., six weeks ago. It might also be a reference to 'Executable and Linkable Format,' a computer coding term that Alexis, a technician for a Navy contracting firm, would have understood. But the officials conceded that investigators are uncertain about the meaning of the messages. 'He was a loner,' said the official, who was reading from reports in the case but spoke anonymously because the investigation is continuing. 'Who knows what was in his mind? He told people he was crazy.'"

A Conspiracy Theory: Another possible—although perhaps more far-fetched—interpretation of the ELF phrase offered by WaPo is that it is a reference to some type of military project. The Navy uses extremely low frequencies in several capacities, as the paper notes, including as part of a joint project with the Air Force called the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, or HAARP, a government-funded research program in Alaska that studies the ionosphere but is often cited by conspiracy theorists who blame it for everything from earthquakes and hurricanes to mind control.

It's Wednesday, September 18th, welcome to the Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon hosts on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and @Dan_Gartland, and the whole team at @Slatest.

Red Flags: New York Times: "The episode in Rhode Island adds to a growing list of questions about how Mr. Alexis, who had a history of infractions as a Navy reservist, mental health problems and run-ins with the police over gun violence, gained and kept a security clearance from the Defense Department that gave him access to military bases, including the navy yard, where he was shot to death by the police. Time and again, Mr. Alexis’s behavior fell below a level that would have brought a serious response, like a less-than-honorable discharge from the military or involuntary commitment to a mental institution, experts and officials said. But the sheer number of episodes raises questions about the government’s system for vetting people for security clearances, including the thousands of contractors who help run the nation’s military and security system work."

A Change in Process: NBC News: "Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will lead a departmentwide review of both the physical security of all DOD installations as well as the 'practices and procedures for granting and renewing security clearances, including those held by contractors,' Hagel said. Additionally, an independent panel will conduct its own assessments, he added."

The Victims: The Associated Press has a nice look at all 12 victims who were killed during Monday's shooting at the Navy Yard. Read it here.

A Dash of Much-Needed Good News: NBC News: "A 14-year-old Georgia girl kidnapped by two gunmen during a home invasion early Tuesday has been found alive, officials said. Ayvani Hope Perez was in good health, officials said, and was being evaluated on Wednesday afternoon. A nationwide Amber Alert was issued after Ayvani was taken at about 2 a.m. Tuesday by armed men from her family's home in Ellenwood, a suburb of Atlanta. Two suspects are in custody, Clayton County police chief Gregory Porter said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, but officials are looking for other potential suspects."

Canadian Mass Transit Crash: CBS News: "A double-decker bus collided with a passenger train in Canada's capital Wednesday, ripping off the front of the bus and killing six people, police said. Witnesses said the bus went through a closed crossing barrier, and passengers said they screamed 'Stop, stop!' at the driver just before impact. Officials said 30 people were injured, 10 critically. The crash in Ottawa occurred at the peak of morning rush hour. The cause was not yet clear, said John Manconi with bus operator OC Transpo."

iOS 7 Released: CNN: Apple's iOS is the software that controls all the basics of your gadget, including the look, feel, settings and hardware. iOS 7 is Apple's latest update to this system and its biggest change since iOS debuted six years ago. ... Developers have been testing early versions of the new operating system for months, but Apple made it available to the general public at 1 p.m. ET today."

Brazilian President's Cancelled White House Trip: New York Times: "Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, said Tuesday that she was postponing a state visit to the United States, delivering a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration over revelations that the National Security Agency had spied on her, her inner circle of top aides and Brazil’s largest company, the oil giant Petrobras."

That's all for today. See you back here tomorrow. Until then, tell your friends to subscribe or simply forward the newsletter on and let them make up their own minds.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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