Tuesday, July 24, 2018


I have heard the trumpster in the dumpster called a lot of mean, nasty, evil things.

I am finding it increasingly difficult to disagree with even one of them.

Trump threatened to strip security clearances from former officials who criticized him thereby signaling his willingness to abuse the powers of the presidency to retaliate against his detractors (as well as his contractors).

Among them are John O. Brennan, the former C.I.A. director; Susan E. Rice, the former national security adviser; and James R. Clapper Jr., the former director of national intelligence.

This marks an unusual politicization of a security clearance process by a wanna-be president.

Trump’s plan appeared to be an off-the-cuff idea — announced just after Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, suggested it to him — rather than a proposal. (Remember, Trump goes shallow.)

Two of Trump's targets, James B. Comey, who was fired by Mr. Trump as F.B.I. director last year, and Andrew G. McCabe, who was dismissed in March as deputy director of the F.B.I., no longer have security clearances as a result of their departures. (Trump is ignorant.)

Former high-ranking officials in defense, intelligence, diplomacy, and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government. A clearance also helps departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms. (Former Trump folks need not apply)

Trump threatened critics whose titles, experience, and access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets lend weight to their criticism of his folly.

“It is intended to punish and intimidate his critics and is shameful,” said Jeffrey H. Smith, a former general counsel for the C.I.A. He compared it to the so-called red scare of the 1950s, when J. Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who led development of the atomic bomb, had his security clearance revoked because of Teller.

But, there is probably little the former officials can do if the White House moves forward.

Mr. Clapper declined to discuss the threat but repeated comments he first made in an interview on CNN: “This is just a very, very petty thing to do. And that’s about all I’ll say about it.”

Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the C.I.A. and National Security Agency during the George W. Bush administration, said the removal of his security clearance would not affect “what I say or write.”

As unusual as the suggestion was, it reflects a remarkable dynamic in which so many former senior intelligence officials are willing to criticize the sitting president in public.

Senior intelligence officials are generally nonpartisan. During past administrations, they have attempted to maintain an apolitical posture, limiting their public criticism of current administrations.

But Trump routinely attacks intelligence agencies, portraying them as a deep state, an unelected cabal seeking to undercut him. Last year after a meeting with Mr. Putin, Mr. Trump called Mr. Brennan, Mr. Clapper and Mr. Comey “political hacks” as he endorsed Russia’s denial.

After Trump stood alongside Putin in Finland last week and sided with him over the intelligence community to cast doubt about the campaign meddling, the trio repeated their denunciations.

Mr. Brennan, a fellow at Fordham Law School, called Mr. Trump’s performance “treasonous” and said it warranted impeachment. Mr. Comey, whose best-selling book portrays the president as a liar, tweeted that he “sold out our nation on an international stage.” Mr. Clapper, who serves on the advisory board of the Committee to Investigate Russia, mused aloud about “whether the Russians have something” on Mr. Trump.

Mr. Brennan “hasn’t made one penny off of his clearance,” said Nick Shapiro, the former deputy chief of staff at the C.I.A., adding that none of Mr. Brennan’s jobs since leaving government was contingent on his access to classified information.

The president’s animosity toward the six singled out by the White House, makes it next to impossible to continue working with their former agencies.

Security clearances are far more important for former midlevel officials joining the private sector. Before briefly joining the Trump administration, for example, retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, used his security clearance to help build up a lucrative consulting and lobbying business for clients like the government of Turkey.

The Obama administration was hesitant to work with George J. Tenet, the former C.I.A. director, or Paul D. Wolfowitz, the former deputy defense secretary, because of their roles in the Iraq war (a war built on lies).

But security clearances are revoked only for wrongdoing - like the theft of intellectual property.

“The normal drill is if you don’t like what a former official is saying,” Mr. Lewis said, “you don’t brief them.”

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