Former CIA Director and current MSNBC commentator John Brennan’s intelligence service cronies have taken to the airwaves in their disgust at President Trump’s decision to revoke Mr. Brennan’s security clearance for what they claim is a first-time-ever act of vengeance by an out-of-control president.
Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper and dozens of others have expressed outrage that a president of the United States would take such actions for what they insist are purely political reasons even though, as Mr. Clapper admitted in an interview last week, perhaps brother Brennan went too far in insisting that the president is a “traitor.”
Mr. Brennan, who voted for the Communist candidate for president not too many years ago and still doesn’t see anything wrong with having done so says the president’s decision to revoke his security clearance was meant to both punish him for telling the truth and to shut him up.
If that were the case, it has demonstrably failed, but what rankles is Mr. Brennan’s and his friend’s insistence that no one save Mr. Trump has ever let politics affect decisions affecting such clearances
Withdrawing Mr. Brennan’s clearance may undermine the unspoken assumption of many viewers that when he opines on cable he knows more than the rest of us because, well, he has access to top secret information. In that sense, defenders of the president’s action have a good point; Mr. Brennan has at least indirectly personally benefitted since his clearance increases his believability and hence his marketability as a “talking head.”
Losing his clearance could conceivably affect those who somehow believe him to be omniscient, but yanking his clearance isn’t likely to cost him a paycheck or his cable platform. Instead, it has enhanced his anti-Trump credentials and allowed him to claim the victimhood so sought after by liberals. Agree with the president or not, pulling Mr. Brennan’s clearance is hardly a free speech issue as some of his defenders claim.
What really rankles is the claim that withdrawal of Mr. Brennan’s clearance is unique. Government officials often use the threat or actuality of cancelling a government employee’s clearance to do what Mr. Trump is not in a position to accomplish by taking away Mr. Brennan’s clearance; to shut up subordinates or whistleblowers or to make it easier to fire employees whose jobs require clearances. Messing with a troublesome federal employee’s clearance happens all the time, something Mr. Brennan and his defenders know all too well.
This week, Judicial Watch announced it was going to court on behalf of Adam Lovinger, a Defense Department whistleblower who in late 2016 stumbled on and warned of what he termed “the moral hazard associated with the Washington Headquaters Services contracting with Stefan Halper.”
Mr. Halper, then a professor in Britain, was being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for what Mr. Lovinger and other analysts believed to be very little. It was later learned that Mr. Halper had long-standing relationships with both the CIA and British intelligence officials, and was working with the FBI in an attempt to snare Trump campaign workers as part of the FBI attempt to find collusion between candidate Trump and the Kremlin.
Within months, the very officials who had approved more than a million dollars in payments to Mr. Halper stripped Mr. Lovinger of his security clearance. When Mr. Lovinger who had no idea at the time that he had stumbled into something his bosses didn’t want revealed, filed a complaint and sought an explanation, his superiors balked, providing him with scanty information and withholding some 75 pages of information he and Judicial Watch believe he has every right to see.
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton believes Mr. Lovinger may have inadvertently uncovered the Obama Defense Department’s cover for the FBI’s attempts to implicate Trump campaign officials and advisers’ alleged contacts with the Russians. It was Mr. Halper who paid Trump adviser George Papadopoulos to “write a paper” for him and develop a friendship that he hoped would lead to uncovering information Mr. Halper could forward to the FBI.
Mr. Lovinger knew nothing of all this. But the retribution he faced for doing his job is just one recent example of the way Mr. Brennan and his friends throughout government use the power to grant, revoke or downgrade clearances for what an objective observer would fairly conclude are “political” reasons.
Accusing others of acting as one so often does is what most Americans call hypocrisy.
• David A. Keene is an editor at large at The Washington Times.
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