President Trump set off a firestorm last week when he yanked the security clearance of former Obama CIA Director John O. Brennan, who was busy making a career out of bashing the White House. Citing “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations” about his administration, Mr. Trump said Mr. Brennan was seeking to “sow division and chaos.”
And, of course, he was.
Mr. Trump said as president he has “a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information,” and added that 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.”
Now, Mr. Trump should sweep through the intelligence ranks like a wildfire and snatch away EVERY security clearance from every former official. Why? Because just like a driver’s license, retaining security clearance after one leaves a federal post is a privilege, not a right. Simple.
Former government officials are hired by mainstream media networks, where they act as “experts.” They get paid handsomely — $100,000 a year, sometimes much more. And they write books with all their insider knowledge. But in today’s hyper-politicized world, even the intelligence branches are not immune. That means former officials from the Obama administration can be using classified intelligence to bash Mr. Trump (and they do hate Mr. Trump deeply).
Mr. Brennan was just such a person. He became a darling of the liberal media, appearing on NBC News and MSNBC regularly to rip on Mr. Trump. That prompted Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, back in July to tweet: “Is John Brennan monetizing his security clearance? Is John Brennan making millions of dollars divulging secrets to the mainstream media with his attacks on @realDonaldTrump?”
After his clearance was pulled, the former CIA director took to the pages of The New York Times, once again making unfounded accusations against Mr. Trump.
“The only questions that remain are whether the collusion that took place constituted criminally liable conspiracy, whether obstruction of justice occurred to cover up any collusion or conspiracy, and how many members of ‘Trump Incorporated’ attempted to defraud the government by laundering and concealing the movement of money into their pockets,” Mr. Brennan wrote in the Times.
As for the loss of his clearance, Mr. Brennan said that the move showed Mr. Trump “clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him.”
Mr. Brennan, we should remember, made his own bed. He tweeted on July 16: “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes & misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin.”
Former FBI Director James B. Comey, fired by Mr. Trump, came to Mr. Brennan’s defense.
“Once again this president is sending a message that he will punish people who disagree with him and reward those who praise him,” Mr. Comey said in a statement posted on Twitter. “In a democracy, security clearances should not be used as pawns in a petty political game to distract voters from even bigger problems,” he said, adding that Mr. Trump “lies to the American people every day, encourages racism, is a misogynist.”
But ask yourself this? Do those sound like the words of America’s CIA and FBI directors? Calling the president a liar, a misogynist, a racist, accusing him of treason?
Of course not. Those are the words of bullies using the liberal media to further target Mr. Trump.
Far too many people have security clearances anyway — something Mr. Obama also sought to rein in. In November 2013, Politico wrote: “The Obama administration has ordered a government-wide reassessment of how almost 5 million Americans have been granted classified information security clearances and whether each person currently approved to see sensitive national security secrets truly has a need for such access.”
There’s no “right” to holding on to a security clearance once one’s work with the federal government is done. That was done in the past as a courtesy. But when those who have retained them have no courtesy, why let them keep their clearances? Mr. Trump was right to pull Mr. Brennan’s, and he should yank thousands more in the coming months.
You said you’d drain the swamp, Mr. President, so do it.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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