What Does Pulling John Brennan’s Security Clearance Accomplish?

What Does Pulling John Brennan’s Security Clearance Accomplish?

What Does Pulling John Brennan’s Security Clearance Accomplish?

“Fuck brennan and fuck you for defending him,” commented a barely literate individual, who couldn’t be bothered to use capital letters or common courtesy to a stranger on a friend’s social media discussion of Trump’s revocation of former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance. “Sorry your girl lost,” he added sarcastically. What was it that made him assume that I was “defending” Brennan, but was also a liberal who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016?

Apparently, it was my opinion that stripping Brennan of his clearance was a petty act of narcissism that had nothing to do with national security concerns and everything to do with his outright hatred of Donald Trump.

This isn’t the first time some monkey accused me of being a Hillary supporter merely for daring to disagree with the President’s decisions, so the insult barely registers on my radar; it’s the death knell of the mentally deficient and desperate to have the last word. However, Brennan’s security revocation needs to be addressed in a manner that is free of political considerations and partisan hysteria.

John Brennan
John Brennan (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

John Brennan had a lengthy career as an intelligence officer that included stints as Station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during the Khobar Towers terrorist attack. Brennan became deputy executive director of the CIA in 2001 and was director of the newly created Terrorist Threat Integration Center from 2003 to 2004, an office that sifted through and compiled information for President Bush’s daily top secret intelligence briefings and employed the services of analysts from a dozen U.S. agencies and entities. TTIC later was incorporated into the National Counterterrorism Center, and Brennan served as its director in 2004-2005.

After leaving government service for a while, Brennan was named CIA director in 2013 and served in that role until January 2017.

There is no denying that Brennan has an enormous amount of experience in the counterterrorism realm, and as such, his insight – as well as the knowledge and experience of other former NCTC directors – is invaluable to current CT officers. Without that knowledge and consultation, CT efforts are all the poorer. Like his politics or hate them (I definitely hate them), he served under several presidents regardless of political party, and he did his job.

So why strip him of his clearance, and what will that accomplish?

The more partisan of my friends scream loudly that Brennan leaked information and that yanking his clearance was a matter of national security. So let’s look at those claims first.

A “leak” is the unauthorized disclosure of classified information provided by an unidentified source with the intent of making information public.

A book written by Michael Isikoff and David Corn claims that then- Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid believed Brennan was using him as a conduit to publicize possible links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government, according to the Daily Caller.

According to “Russian Roulette,” by Yahoo! News chief investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and David Corn, the Washington bureau chief of the left-wing Mother Jones magazine, Brennan contacted Reid on Aug. 25, 2016, to brief him on the state of Russia’s interference in the presidential campaign. Brennan briefed other members of the so-called Gang of Eight, but Reid is the only who took direct action.Two days after the briefing, Reid wrote a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey asserting that “evidence of a direct connection between the Russian government and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign continues to mount.

According to the book, Brennan told Reid that the intelligence community had determined that the Russian government was behind the hack and leak of Democratic emails and that Russian President Vladimir Putin was behind it. Brennan also told Reid that there was evidence that Russian operatives were attempting to tamper with election results.

If this conversation took place in late august, as the DC article claims, the information Brennan supposedly gave to Reid wasn’t classified. The FBI issued a flash bulletin about it the week before to local governments, which means the information was already unclassified, and press was reporting on it.

Frontpage Magazine, American Spectator and others – hardly objective sources of news and information, I might add – have accused Brennan of a deep state conspiracy to elect Hillary Clinton and colluding with “foreign spies,” such as Estonia and the UK, to tank the Trump campaign – a claim which GCHQ (the UK’s version of NSA and one of our closest allies) vociferously denies.

On March 16, Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano accused GCHQ of working with the Obama administration to spy on Donald Trump, citing unnamed sources. The United States and United Kingdom are in fact parties to a multilateral intelligence cooperation pact. This five-way intelligence alliance among the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada is called Five Eyes (FVEY). It obligates the countries to work together in the area of signals intelligence (SIGINT).

Yes, the five nations are party to the FVEY agreement, but that doesn’t mean that the American intelligence community is allowed to actively spy on US persons, which Trump and his crew obviously were. Requesting the identity of a US person detailed in a signals intelligence report (unmasking) doesn’t mean Brennan was spying on anyone. The request would have still had to have been approved by the proper authorities, and there’s always an electronic trail, detailing the reasons for the request and the final response to it by the agency. If getting the identity of the US person speaking in the report helps senior policy and intelligence professionals understand the context of the reporting better, and if it’s relevant to national security, the request would have likely been approved. But that is not sketchy or shady. It certainly does not rise to the level of a conspiracy!

While it certainly looks as if Brennan is partisan – and there’s no doubt he’s a lefty – other than conspiracy theories by people who have little understanding of the intelligence community and how it works – there’s nothing to confirm that he somehow compromised or mishandled classified information.

The guidelines for revoking a security are clear, and Brennan doesn’t check any of the boxes. Additionally, there’s an adjudication process for revoking a security clearance, and that hadn’t been followed in this case. The adjudicative criteria are as follows, and there is a description of each, so no one is confused:

  • Guideline A: Allegiance to the United States
    Belonging to a terror group, advocating the unconstitutional overthrow of the government, associating or sympathizing with terrorists, terror groups or those seeking the overthrow of the government.
  • Guideline B: Foreign influence
    Association with foreign citizens, business interest in foreign countries, potential that the individual could be coerced for some reason by a foreign government.
  • Guideline C: Foreign preference
    Dual citizenship, service in a foreign military, accepting benefits such as scholarships or retirement benefits from a foreign country.
  • Guideline D: Sexual behavior
    Criminal sexual behavior, sex addiction, sexual behavior that suggests a “lack of discretion or judgment.”
  • Guideline E: Personal conduct
    Refusing to cooperate with the clearance investigation, refusing to complete requested paperwork, refusing testing. Associating with known criminals, adverse reports from past employers, neighbors or friends. Providing false information or concealing information from investigators.
  • Guideline F: Financial considerations
    Pattern of not meeting financial obligations. White collar crime. Unexplained wealth.
  • Guideline G: Alcohol consumption
    Alcohol-related incidents at work or away from work. Medical diagnosis of alcohol abuse or dependence. Continued alcohol use after a rehab program.
  • Guideline H: Drug involvement
    Use of illegal drugs. Drug-related incidents at work or away from work. Medical diagnosis of drug abuse or dependence. Continued drug use after a rehab program.
  • Guideline I: Emotional, mental, and personality disorders
    “A condition or treatment that may indicate a defect in judgment, reliability, or stability.” Failure to follow prescribed treatments, including taking prescription medications. “A pattern of high-risk, irresponsible, aggressive, anti-social or emotionally unstable behavior.”
  • Guideline J: Criminal conduct
    Allegations or admissions of criminal conduct with or without charges being pressed. Conviction for a serious crime or multiple lesser crimes.
  • Guideline K: Security violations
    “Unauthorized disclosure of classified information.” Deliberate security violations. Multiple violations. Negligence.
  • Guideline L: Outside activities
    “Any service, whether compensated, volunteer, or employment with a foreign country, any foreign national, a representative of any foreign interest and any foreign, domestic, or international organization or person engaged in analysis, discussion, or publication of material on intelligence, defense, foreign affairs, or protected technology.”
  • Guideline M: Misuse of information technology systems
    Illegal or unauthorized access to a computer system. Unauthorized actions to alter, restrict or deny access to systems. Unauthorized removal of software or hardware from systems, or adding unauthorized software or hardware to systems.

Of course, the President has the right to revoke anyone’s clearance anytime, since he’s the top classification authority, but his doing so in this case, especially given that Sarah Sanders’ cited Brennan’s apparent lack of objectivity and partisanship, and not any mishandling or compromising of national security information as the reason for this action, shows this to be a clear case of petty retribution.

Brennan has a history of partisanship when it comes to Trump. No one has ever complained about his knowledge of terrorism issues or his participation on the NCTC directors panel, or his consultation with current national security professionals or called his objectivity into question.

His expertise is based on more than 20 years of experience in the intelligence community, and no one can take away that knowledge he already has or prevent him from sharing it (as long as it’s unclassified) with media outlets or in other fora.

Yanking his clearance does nothing to him, but it does hurt the current members of the national security community by depriving it of his experience and expertise in the CT arena, and in the process, it hurts the nation.

(This post was written after discussing the issue with a friend who has a very strong understanding of the intelligence community. Thanks, F! You might also want to check out Kim’s take on the situation. You can find it here.)

 

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31 Comments
  • Bob Rich says:

    Why does anyone need or have security clearance once they have left their position?

    • Nicki says:

      Clearance =\= access. An SSBI is good for five years. Brennan maintained an active clearance as a consultant to current national security officials.

  • twolaneflash says:

    What your “barely literate commenter” said, and I double it. I did go to medical school, so I consider myself literate, and you a Prog supporter. Brennan is a seditious, treasonous bastard from decades ago. Your assessment of VSGPDJTrump is another example of your narcissistic pettiness. You left out the one Guideline for removal of one’s security clearance that applies here: the President wants it done.

    Trump 2020

    • Nicki says:

      Holy, shit! I guess medical school didn’t add a whole lot of reading comprehension! Way to completely miss her point, dumbass! LMAO!!!!

    • GWB says:

      Wow, if you think Amanda is a prog, you really are missing a lot between the ears. Or you don’t read well or broadly.

  • Omvistus says:

    You just assume that he wants to help the US, when we have seen time and time again that the dems will be more than happy to tear the country down and apart to get their way. No matter what their “service” was or is, always be aware that dems are out to undo America as founded until and unless you have concrete proof that they are just useful idiots.

  • Doug Purdie says:

    I think the “Criminal conduct” applies. He ordered his minions to illegally spy on members of the Senate Intelligence Committee. See the Atlantic article using the below address.

    https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/12/a-brief-history-of-the-cias-unpunished-spying-on-the-senate/384003/

    I also think Clapper should have his clearance revoked because he is a paid commentator for CNN. His undisguised hatred for Trump makes him a risk to leak classified information in order to hurt Trump. He’s also the guy who manipulated Comey into the private conversation with Trump so CNN would have an excuse to publicize the unverified dossier.

    Neither of these clowns is likely to help the current administration with their insider knowledge, so there is nothing to gain from them keeping their clearances.

    • Nicki says:

      So, I don’t disagree about the spying part, but that was several years ago. Why didn’t anyone do anything then?

      Per government practice, merely having a clearance and disliking an administration doesn’t make one a risk for mishandling classified information. They can be arrested for that, and all former government officials know that.

      I don’t know about Clapper, but Brennan does consult on national security matters – particularly terrorism – and his 25 years in that field are actually important for insight.

      • GWB says:

        Why didn’t anyone do anything then?
        Because … 0bama administration?
        It was the most incompetent, untrustworthy, scandalous, anti-American*, lawless, untrustworthy (I repeat myself for emphasis) administration ever. And, given Clinton’s two terms, that’s saying something.

        (* I will concede that some can argue that Wilson and FDR were more anti-American in some ways. Let’s leave that argument for some time over a few brews.)

  • Bill Cook says:

    When I left the USAF in 1985, I lost my TS clearance and the items listed above in your article didn’t apply to me either. Brennan has no need for his clearance and thus ought to give it up. I don’t see the politics in revoking a clearance that is no longer needed. Maybe your vast experience with security clearances is better than mine.

    • Nicki says:

      Bill, you likely lost your ACCESSES, not your actual clearance – unless it expired. As I explained above, the two are not the same.

      I left the Army at the end of 2007, but I still had an active TS when I applied for and got hired for my civilian job. They do this, so that once someone leaves government service, and decides to come back after a certain amount of time, they don’t have to do a costly reinvestigation if the SSBI is still within five years.

      • Bill Cook says:

        The idea of not revoking Brennan’s clearance because of the cost to do another background check, if needed, is a real hoot.

        • Marta Hernandez says:

          I believe what she said was that’s why people retain their clearances until they expire, NOT specifically referring to Brennan.

  • Johnny says:

    “Yanking his clearance does nothing to him, but it does hurt the current members of the national security community by depriving it of his experience and expertise…”

    President Trump clearly explained that after nearly two years, Brennan’s usefulness as regards consulting on matters has depreciated. The President also pointed out Brennan’s increasingly “erratic conduct and behavior”.

    Given that we are dealing with national security here, there is no room for having it both ways.
    Brennan’s insight is either essential and that fact outweighs the risk of his obvious declining judgement/restraint, or it is not. The President decided it is not. Strike one.

    And that does not even consider the possibility, given his obscenely irrational hatred of President Trump, that Brennan would deliberately give false counsel or withhold essential information in order to simply make President Trump look bad, to the ultimate detriment of our country as a whole. Had Brennan conducted himself with any measure whatsoever of propriety/tact/decorum in this area, he would likely still have his clearance. Strike two.

    Finally, CIA guidelines require that, when one maintains such a clearance after leaving employment, that person conduct themselves as if they were an active member of the CIA. Strike three.

    Brennan’s out. Deservedly so. And there’s nothing “petty” about it.

    • Nicki says:

      Maybe I’m missing something here, but I don’t see hating a President or Administration as equivalent to an increased risk in mishandling classified information.

      Also, the agency doesn’t prohibit political views – even strong ones – after one has left government service. There are certain guidelines one has to follow with regard to pre-pub review, but nothing prevents one from criticizing – even vehemently – politicians.

      Here’s the thing – there are processes to strip someone of their clearance. I think Amanda linked to one of them above. There’s an adjudication process that should be followed if there are REAL concerns about someone mishandling classified information. Nothing was ever submitted, and the action was unilateral, which makes it look petty.

      Maybe a review of his activities would have revealed that he really did need to be stripped of his clearance. I’m not a CI agent, so I wouldn’t know for sure. But I am a former public affairs specialist in the military, so I know about messaging, and despite the president having the authority to do so, it looks petty and bad.

      Just my 2 cents.

      • Johnny says:

        “I don’t see hating a President or Administration as equivalent to an increased risk in mishandling classified information.”

        I didn’t say anything about risk.
        My point is that Brennan’s usefulness is degraded given his animosity.
        If he is not useful, he doesn’t need a clearance to facilitate his usefulness.

        “…the agency doesn’t prohibit political views – even strong ones – after one has left government service.”
        If Brennan has indeed left government service, he can have all the views he wants.
        But having left that service, he doesn’t need a clearance.

        “…there are processes to strip someone of their clearance.”
        When they are employed in government service and require one, yes.
        When they have left government service and do not wish to comport themselves in the required manner to maintain their clearance, no.

        Again, the man has no use for a clearance, and so it has been revoked. Period.
        What is hard about this?

        • Nicki says:

          Ooops! Posted this in the wrong place. Meh. I hate stacked comments.

          Stripping someone of their clearance is all about risk. Are they a risk to national security if they retain their clearance, which is not the same as access. More likely than not Brennan doesn’t have the accesses to all the SCI he had when he was Director.

          And the adjudication processes apply to those with clearances whether they’re still employed by the government or not.

          In this case, Brennan still consults with other government officials on CT issues, and being a former NCTC Director, I’m pretty sure he has insights that neither you nor I will know anything about.

          Additionally, there’s a reason why most people will retain their clearance when they leave until it expires. That doesn’t entitle them to view SCI, but it does allow them to return to government service IF they choose without the huge cost of having to do another investigation, IF the SSBI is current. It’s a cost-benefit analysis. What’s so hard about that?

  • Doug Purdie says:

    Nicki – I can only speculate about why nobody did anything about Brennan back then, but my guess is the Obama DOJ didn’t like prosecuting players on their team. Same reason Ms. Clinton skated on her security violations.

    Regarding Brennan’s 25 years in the terrorism field, I think the term “insight” is grossly generous. His conclusions about terrorism seem more like wishful fantasies.

    • Nicki says:

      Doug, I’m not sure about that. He regularly consults at NCTC and his insight has been pretty good so far. I have to wonder if he was on board with Obama’s assessment of ISIS as the JV team. Judging from his history with CT, I wouldn’t think so. Of course, this wouldn’t be the first time a President has ignored his IC advisors…

    • Nicki says:

      Stripping someone of their clearance is all about risk. Are they a risk to national security if they retain their clearance, which is not the same as access. More likely than not Brennan doesn’t have the accesses to all the SCI he had when he was Director.

      And the adjudication processes apply to those with clearances whether they’re still employed by the government or not.

      In this case, Brennan still consults with other government officials on CT issues, and being a former NCTC Director, I’m pretty sure he has insights that neither you nor I will know anything about.

      Additionally, there’s a reason why most people will retain their clearance when they leave until it expires. That doesn’t entitle them to view SCI, but it does allow them to return to government service IF they choose without the huge cost of having to do another investigation, IF the SSBI is current. It’s a cost-benefit analysis. What’s so hard about that?

      • GWB says:

        More likely than not Brennan doesn’t have the accesses to all the SCI he had when he was Director.
        This is a point where I’m going to disagree. And it’s the fundamental problem with him retaining his clearance – all the people who think they can pass him information because “well, he’s got a clearance, so it’s cool.”
        This is a fundamental reason to revoke the clearances of all those involved in leaking. IMHO. (And folks like Rice, who “un-masked” all those folks. That’s pretty transparent untrustworthiness right there.)

  • timh says:

    Very simply, and obviously, revoking Brennan’s Special STATUS, (which is what having Credentials which he cannot effectively use is all about) is all about DETERRENCE. It says to the “Swamp”: We will strip you of that which you value the most: Your Peer-STATUS!
    As for crying the blues over the de-frocking of one who has “served” oh so much, blah blah…SERIOUSLY? Brennan has been using this precious Experience of his IN AN ACTIVE COUP against a LEGITIMATELY elected President! Brennan, Comey, Mueller, the WHOLE LOT of them should be prosecuted in what could, should and DAMN WELL BETTER SOON BE The American Nuremberg Trials!!!! This Coup, this Civil War of theirs, needs to be CRUSHED post haste, to save our teetering Republic! BTW you’re welcome, for Cap letters! Thank you for not acting butthurt by Capital letters, as SO MANY ‘Flakies now are…. peace

  • Bill B says:

    Brennan should have had the good sense to be civil. He publicly accused the President of treason. To me, that means that 1) his reality testing is severely deficient, and 2) his judgment cannot be trusted. If Brennan is not intelligent enough to have anticipated what was coming , I rest my case. Defanging a snake that is attacking you is not petty vindictiveness – it is simple self preservation.

  • Tom Moeller says:

    The easy answer is, Mr. Brennen with a clearance, is of no additional value to national security since leaving his official position, but he is a valuable tool for leftist propaganda as long as he has the clearance (trappings of authority). He is by no means a non-partisan source information to those who would do this nation, and its constitutional foundation, harm.

    Mr. Brennen may himself not be a hazard but he is being used knowingly or not as an anti-American asset by those who would remove a consitutionally elected President.

    My take and just as valid as yours. I am more cautious when looking at the cost benefit equation here.

  • Thomas Moeller says:

    Brennan may have monitized his security clearance to the detriment of national security.

    https://www.redstate.com/streiff/2018/07/27/rand-paul-john-brennan-leaked-top-secret-information-blew-us-operation-help-friends-make-money/

    The people rest.

  • Brennan verbally (and it seems, practically) attacked a sitting president with baseless charges.
    That president retaliated by revoking his “special” status. An action clearly in his power.
    That’s narcissism?

  • Bill Cook says:

    I am beginning to think this whole issue is about semantics. Brennan no longer has a position where he needs access to sensitive material, therefore, he shouldn’t have access.

  • GWB says:

    everything to do with his outright hatred of Donald Trump
    To the point that he has participated in outright lying about him, and using his credentials to give support to the lie. That level of animosity is most certainly a risk. And Burr says he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee. There is a general level of untrustworthiness because of his animosity. I say revoking it is a good thing.

    Guideline K: Security violations
    I think he is implicated in the Steele “dossier” baloney. If so, it again speaks to his general unworthiness.
    There’s also an implication that he is one of the many 0bama leakers. If so, then this one is clearly grounds.

    Remember that a clearance is not just granted because you checked boxes, but because you are considered a trustworthy individual.

    And, yes, there is a difference between having your clearance revoked and your access ended. I have explained it a couple of times in various places. BUT, if your access is ended for a reason other than “you don’t work here anymore”, it really should give rise to a question whether your clearance should be revoked or suspended, as well.

  • Jeffersonian says:

    Brennan was rightfully revoked of his security clearance. He is a bad actor supportive of communists and likely other factions opposed to American interests. Say, the DNC for example. Many terrorist acts occurred under his watch, including the attack at the Khobar Towers, which he might have prevented had he wanted to do so. Revoking his clearance doesn’t effect his personal hands/eyes on access to that secure information, he likely has none, what it does do is turn relaying that information to him by anyone who still has rightful access to that info relaying that info to him into a criminal act. Punishable by law. Trump revoked his access as a message to those people.

  • chris says:

    Pulling Brennan’s security clearance will cause the same reaction as pulling his finger —a loud fart in your general direction!

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