[guest post by Dana]
Last month Paul Ryan brushed off the suggestion that President Trump was considering the revocation of security clearances for certain former intelligence officials, saying that that the president was just trolling people. Apparently the president wasn’t just trolling because today the White House announced it had revoked former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance:
As the head of the executive branch and Commander in Chief, I have a unique, Constitutional responsibility to protect the Nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. Today, in fulfilling that responsibility, I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Historically, former heads of intelligence and law enforcement agencies have been allowed to retain access to classified information after their Government service so that they can consult with their successors regarding matters about which they may have special insights and as a professional courtesy. Neither of these justifications supports Mr. Brennan’s continued access to classified information.
First, at this point in my Administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior. Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him. Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility. In 2014, for example, he denied to Congress that CIA officials under his supervision had improperly accessed the computer files of congressional staffers.
Additionally, Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations – wild outbursts on the internet and television – about this Administration. Mr. Brennan’s lying and recent conduct, characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary, is wholly inconsistent with access to the Nation’s most closely held secrets and facilitates the very aim of our adversaries, which is to sow division and chaos. More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our Nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in Government has ended.
The White House reportedly did not consult Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, about the decision.
Other former high-ranking intelligence officials are also reportedly being considered to have security clearances revoked as well, including:
James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence
James Comey, former FBI director
Michael Hayden, former CIA director
Sally Yates, former Acting Attorney General
Susan Rice, former National Security Adviser
Andrew McCabe, former deputy FBI director
Peter Strzok, former FBI agent
Lisa Page, former FBI lawyer
Bruce Ohr, former Associate Deputy Attorney General
(Note: some of these individuals don’t even a security clearance to revoke, or have already had it revoked…)
Sarah Sanders questioned the need for continuing security clearances for those no longer in government service:
“More broadly, the issue of Mr. Brennan’s security clearance raises larger questions about the practice of former officials maintaining access to our nation’s most sensitive secrets long after their time in government has ended,” Sanders said. “Such access is particularly inappropriate when former officials have transitioned into highly partisan positions and seek to use real or perceived access to sensitive information to validate their political attacks.”
Just because someone retains their clearance to receive classified info doesn’t mean they retain their access to it. You can’t demand to see state secrets just because you’re cleared to see them. The administration has to make them available to you. And it hopefully goes without saying that having a clearance doesn’t shield you from prosecution if you’re caught sharing classified info with unauthorized recipients. In other words, if you were worried about Brennan leaking, today’s move doesn’t do much to reduce that risk. In all likelihood he had no access to any recent intel in the first place. And if people inside the administration were sharing it with him because they hate Trump, odds are they’re going to go on sharing it even after today’s action (although they can be jailed for doing so now).
This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.
For examples of Brennan’s “speaking out” against Trump, you can scroll through his Twitter feed. Boy, there are plenty of examples.
(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)