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TODAY   |  September 18, 2013

New details on Aaron Alexis’ mental health past

Authorities in Newport, Rhode Island were so concerned about an encounter with Aaron Alexis that they contacted a nearby naval station, describing in a report his belief he was being followed and being kept awake by a “microwave machine.” NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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>> it's the latest details on the troubled life of the man responsible for the mass killing at the navy yard on monday. officials don't yet know the motive here. they're getting a clearer picture of the events leading up to it. pete williams has an update on this. good morning.

>> good morning. they're finding evidence that aaron alexis was very recently losing his grip on reality. just last month he told police he feared for his safety because people were following him.

>> reporter: police in newport, rhode island say they were so concerned about an account with aaron alexis last month they contacted authorities at a nearby naval station and gave them the report. he told them he was hearing voices and tried changing hotels twice but that didn't change. people were following him using a microwave machine sending vibrations preventing him from sleeping. he worried the individuals were going to harm him. a short time later he sought treatment at a nearby va hospital while working as a military contractor . now members of congress are asking how he could have gotten or kept the security clearance that allows him access to the navy yard given what is emerging about his mental health issues and brushes with the law.

>> it's time to stop at the bottom and revamp our background system, especially in our military, national intelligence, and military facilities.

>> the navy says he was given a low level secret clearance in 2008 , good for ten years. even though just four years earlier he was arrested in seattle for shooting the tiers of a car that was parked near his house. but nothing in his background prevented him from going to this virginia gun store last saturday and legally buying a police style shotgun like this that officials say he used in the shooting rampage. friends and former roommates in texas say they saw no indication of mental problems or signs he could turn so violent.

>> i don't have the answers that people are looking for. i can't explain it.

>> the defense secretary has now ordered a review of security and access at military facilities and president obama ordered an even broader look at security standards for all government contractors.