DemDaily: Speech, Spies and Security

August 20, 2018

The issue of security clearances has taken center stage in recent days, following President Trump's decision last Wednesday to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.

"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" -- Brennan

Brennan, who served as Director of the CIA from 2013 to 2017, has been an outspoken critic of Trump's, most recently calling the President's performance during the Helsinki press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin "treasonous."

Former intelligence and law enforcement agency leaders traditionally keep their security clearances for institutional continuity, and to be able to consult with their successors should their expertise be needed.

In an August 15th statement read by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders, Trump accused Brennan of making "a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations - wild outbursts on the internet and television - about this Administration."

A Security Clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information (state or organizational secrets) or to restricted areas, after completion of a thorough background check.

The flagrant abuse of Presidential power for political retribution against an individual exercising his constitutional right to free speech was met with an immediate bipartisan firestorm of criticism from the public and the intelligence community.

13 former senior intelligence officials, including the CIA Directors for every presidential administration going back to Ronald Reagan, released a statement of condemnation.

"We believe the president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances - and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech."  August 16, 2018

On Friday, 60 former CIA officers signed a similar letter opposing Mr. Trump's decision, reiterating that officials should have "the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so."

By Monday morning, the number of senior security alum who had signed on was over 400.

Brennan's confidential clearance is the first to be officially revoked since Trump's July 23rd announcement that he would be reviewing the security clearances of a number of ex-Obama officials.  The list also includes FBI and Justice officials who are involved in the Russia-Trump investigation regarding interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Others on Trump's Hit List include (in pic, from left to right): former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, former FBI Director James Comey, former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper.

Unbeknownst to Trump, Comey and McCabe gave up their security clearances when they left the Administration.

Full Statement From Former Senior Intelligence Officials

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: WashingtonPost, USAToday, CBSNews, MSNBC, Yahoo
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