The pseudonymous Ishmael Jones is a former CIA case officer and author of The Human Factor: Inside the CIA’s Dysfunctional Intelligence Culture. Last year we posted his column below in the context of the proliferation of leaks attributed by reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post to “current and former officials.” Given the White House announcement today that President Trump is considering revoking the security clearances of John Brennan, James Comey et al., the proposal put forward in this column takes on new currency. The CIA had approved the column for publication prior to our posting it last year:
Leaks of national security secrets with the intent to harm the Trump administration continue to bedevil our nation. Journalists often describe the sources of the leaks as “current and former officials.” There’s an important solution, and one that the Trump administration may not yet be aware of: Remove the “former officials” from the equation.
Nearly all intelligence officials who are fired, retired, pushed out, or resign from the intelligence agencies keep their security clearances. I do not know the specifics of any individual’s clearances but it is nearly certain that opponents of the current administration such as John Brennan, an aggressive Trump critic; James Clapper, who warns that Trump causes an “internal assault on our institutions”; Michael Morell, author of “I Ran the CIA. Now I’m Endorsing Hillary Clinton”; and recently fired leaker James Comey retain top-level security clearances.
Security clearances are a deep state guild or union card allowing the holders to swan about intelligence facilities, chatting, gossiping, and gathering intelligence that they can leak to journalists.
The traitor Edward Snowden was pushed out of the CIA. But because he kept his security clearances, he was able to get back inside as a contractor and exfiltrate massive amounts of intelligence.
Hillary definitely retains her security clearances. Huma Abedin probably retains hers as well. Surely Carlos Danger has none – but please check.
CNN journalist Phil Mudd believes House Intelligence Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy “ought to have his ass kicked” for questioning former CIA chief John Brennan. Mr. Mudd is a former CIA employee and likely holds high level security clearances.
President Trump knows how to fire people, but he’s never had the experience of firing people who walk back in the door the next day.
The solution is to cancel these security clearances. It is an administrative task which is easy to do.
People who don’t work at intelligence agencies shouldn’t have clearances. It’s not a free speech issue. Leakers aren’t protected by the First Amendment.
The origin of the policy allowing these people to keep their clearances is that it is often necessary to bring back former employees who have valuable skills and specialties. But most of these guys got to their high rank by outsitting their competition. They don’t speak foreign languages or hold other essential skills.
These aren’t retired firemen who drop by the firehouse to see their friends. Some former intel officials are using their security clearances for malicious and self-interested purposes.
The ability to safeguard our national security secrets protects us from our enemies. A healthy step in stopping intelligence leaks and blocking bureaucratic opposition to our new President will be to carefully evaluate who’s got access to America’s sensitive secrets and take corrective action.