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The White House’s security clearance problem

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Tell Wayne Stone, acting inspector general for the intelligence community:

"Investigate the White House’s security clearance policy."

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    The White House’s security clearance problem

    Last week, Rob Porter resigned from his White House job after allegations broke that he emotionally and physically abused his ex-wives. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Donald McGahn both knew that Porter’s wives had reported his abusive behavior.1 Trump and Kelly both defended Porter after he resigned.2

    It is appalling but unsurprising that the misogynist-in-chief’s White House would elevate and celebrate a man accused of domestic violence. But in doing so, the Trump White House senior staff allowed Porter to have daily access to sensitive and often classified information without a security clearance – a clearance that was held up by the FBI flagging that one of his ex-wives said he might be susceptible to blackmail3

    The White House’s incompetence goes far beyond sweeping domestic violence under the rug or even letting one staffer access information beyond his security clearance. The Trump regime has dozens of staffers with high-level access to sensitive information who have not been cleared by the FBI.4

    Tell Inspector General for the intelligence community Wayne Stone: Investigate the White House’s security clearance policy.

    Porter’s resignation, as well as the departure of a second White House staffer who also quit last week when news surfaced that his ex-wife had told the FBI he was emotionally and physical abusive, has shed light on the White House’s huge problem with security clearances, but there is still much we do not know.5

    Senate Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono, have requested information from Wayne Stone, the acting inspector general for the intelligence community, but unless there is a huge outcry from the public to demand an investigation, the Trump regime will be allowed to jeopardize national security.6

    Tell Inspector General for the intelligence community Wayne Stone: Investigate the White House’s security clearance policy.

    Jared Kushner is among those who are working at the White House without a permanent security clearance. Trump’s son-in-law has been embroiled in the Russia investigation, in particular after it was revealed he lied about meeting with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.7 Kushner has even higher-level access to classified information than Porter did, and it is unacceptable that Trump and Kelly have continued to keep him in his role when he may never actually be granted permanent clearance.8 Kushner’s extensive business dealings and the fact that he initially lied on his clearance form have delayed his clearance, but we still do not know why so many other positions in the Trump regime are filled by those who lack clearance or what else Kelly is covering up about his staff. It is potentially a huge national security risk.

    According to Comptroller General of the United States Gene Dodaro, “A high-quality and timely personnel security clearance process is essential to minimize the risks of unauthorized disclosures of classified information and to help ensure that information about individuals with criminal histories or other questionable behavior is identified and assessed.”9 But that is simply not happening. There is a huge backlog of pending security clearance requests – more than 700,000 – likely created in part by disorganization and understaffing at the White House.10

    While it is unsurprising that Trump staffers with a history of discrediting survivors kept Porter in his role, it is unacceptable that Kelly and McGahn dismissed the credible concern of Porter’s ex-wife who believed he would be susceptible to blackmail. A red flag like that should have been enough for them to fire Porter from a role that gave him access to sensitive, top secret materials. Instead, they let him continue to work and even came to his defense when he resigned. Kelly went so far as to call Porter a “man of true integrity and honor.”11

    If this is what Trump and his top staff think integrity looks like, it raises major questions about what other flags the FBI has brought to Trump staff that they have decided to ignore. This is a huge problem for national security – concerns about high-level staffers that would be disqualifying in any other administration are being ignored, and the public deserves an investigation.

    Tell Inspector General for the intelligence community Wayne Stone: Investigate the White House’s security clearance policy.

    Thank you for speaking out.

    References:

    1. Andrew Prokop, “The Rob Porter scandal keeps getting worse for Trump’s White House,” Vox, Feb. 9, 2018.
    2. CBS News, "Trump praises Rob Porter, aide who resigned over spousal abuse allegations,” Feb. 9, 2018.
    3. Prokop, “The Rob Porter scandal keeps getting worse for Trump’s White House.”
    4. Matt Zapotosky, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, “As Jared Kushner’s security clearance is delayed, White House hesitates to act on others with possible problems,” The Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2018.

    5. Elise Viebeck, “Second White House official departs amid abuse allegations, which he denies,” The Washington Post, Feb. 9, 2018.
    6. Elizabeth Castillo, “Democrats request investigation into White House security clearance process,” POLITICO, Feb. 8, 2019.
    7. Brian Naylor and Domenico Montanaro, “White House Security Clearance Trouble Shines Light On 'High Risk' Backlog Problem,” NPR, Feb. 10, 2018.
    8. Eliana Johnson, "Kelly knew before abuse reports that Porter would be denied security clearance," POLITICO, Feb. 8, 2018.
    9. Naylor and Montanaro, “White House Security Clearance Trouble Shines Light On 'High Risk' Backlog Problem."
    10. Josh Dawsey, Matt Zapotosky and Devlin Barrett “Dozens at White House lack permanent security clearances,” The Washington Post, Feb. 8, 2018.
    11. Josh Dawsey, Beth Reinhard and Elise Viebeck, “Senior White House official to resign after ex-wives’ allegations of abuse,” The Washington Post, Feb. 7, 2018.