Backlash As Trump Revokes Ex-CIA Director’s Security Clearance
The White House ignited a firestorm yesterday when they announced that the President had revoked ex-Central Intelligence Agency Director, John Brennan’s security clearance.
During the briefing, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders read a statement from Trump accusing Brennan of making “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this administration.”
Early comments from the White House stated the decision was not politically motivated but based on a view that Brennen posed a security risk.
Brennen has also been a harsh Trump critic. He served under President Barack Obama’s second term and denounced Trump’s performance at the summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin as “treacherous.”
On Tuesday, Brennen ridiculed Trump after he called former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman a “dog.”
“Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior,” Trump said in his statement. “Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.”
Brennan’s work history includes; the briefing of three presidents, CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, CIA chief of staff, director of the Terrorist Threat Integration Center, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism.
“I never, ever thought I’d see it here in the United States,” Brennan said on MSNBC. “I believe all Americans need to take stock of what is happening right now in our government — how abnormal and how irresponsible and how dangerous these actions are. If Mr. Trump believes this is going to lead me just to go away and be quiet, he is very badly mistaken.”
Security experts have described such a move as unprecedented and warned that words and actions protected by the First Amendment are not grounds to take a security clearance away.
“As far as we know, this is the first time that a president of the United States has individually taken action against somebody’s security clearance,” said Mark Zaid, an attorney who represents government employees in security-clearance disputes.
The White House had previously stated that along with Brennan and Comey, the president was looking to review clearance held by former CIA director Michael V. Hayden, former national security adviser Susan E. Rice, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.
On Wednesday, Sanders expanded that list to include former acting attorney general Sally Q. Yates, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who was recently demoted.
The White House released a written statement from Trump after Sanders’s briefing Wednesday bearing the date July 26 — before quickly releasing an identical statement with the date removed.
“This might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two,” Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) said on Twitter. “But politicizing the way we guard our nation’s secrets just to punish the President’s critics is a dangerous precedent.”
Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.), applauded Trump’s move. In a statement, Paul sought to take credit for the idea of revoking Brennan’s clearance. “I urged the President to do this,” he said. “. . . his behavior in government and out of it demonstrates why he should not be allowed near classified information.”
According to government estimates, nearly 4.1 million Americans have federal government security clearances of varying levels up to “top secret.”
Top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.), said on Twitter that Trump’s move demonstrates “how deeply insecure and vindictive he is — two character flaws dangerous in any President.”
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Brennan has been “far too political” in his commentary about Trump. But she added that recently retired intelligence officials generally have the valuable expertise to offer and called Trump’s move “unwise.”