The Need to Know


I’ve had various security clearances from the government, and every time that my association with a program, project, or agency that justified my having a particular clearance ended, the clearance was terminated. That’s what is supposed to happen.

As Elliot Abrams points out in an article over at Politico, certain former full-time employees may remain cleared after they leave a position because they continue to serve as consultants. They need access to classified information in order to be of continued use to the government. When they are no longer engaged as consultants, their clearances are revoked. Abrams also notes:

I would add a third consideration. I cannot recall previous high intelligence officials acting the way Brennan and Clapper have in vocally assaulting the succeeding administration in a highly partisan manner. Think of Directors of National Intelligence John Negroponte, John McConnell and Dennis Blair, and think of CIA Directors like William Webster, Robert Gates, James Woolsey, John Deutch and George Tenet, and you’ll immediately see that what’s happening now is unprecedented. Brennan and Clapper may well believe that Trump is a threat to the country and as such, merits a break from the norms. They are entitled to their beliefs and can go on attacking—but they shouldn’t have access to classified information.

One has to assume that the partisan views Brennan and Clapper now express were the same views they held when in office, and it is impossible to believe such views did not affect their conduct of their offices. They have done real damage to the belief and expectation that partisan politics will not affect the way our intelligence agencies operate, or the advice they give. They have also led to a reasonable suspicion they might deliberately leak something that could in their view damage the administration or contradict its assertions.

Of course, former officials—including presidents—do not take a vow of silence upon leaving office. But former presidents have usually been circumspect in attacking their successors (Jimmy Carter is an exception), and former intelligence chiefs have generally avoided partisan attacks as well. In behaving this way, they are changing the rules, and Trump is justified in changing the rules to reflect their conduct.

Needless to say, lines have to be drawn. Security clearances should not depend on party loyalty and should not be routinely and immediately revoked when a word (or many words) of criticism are spoken.But it is reasonable to ask our highest former national security officials to consider the integrity of their former offices and agencies and ask that they decide carefully before entering the political and media fray.

They are free to choose that path, but if they do, they relinquish the perquisites that have traditionally gone with their long careers—like a security clearance.

Read the whole thing.

2 thoughts on “The Need to Know

  1. Advocating that agency employees deliberately act to conceal information from the Commander-in-Chief is disqualifying of holding a security clearance in and of itself, if not outright sedition. It’s that simple. How complicate it?

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