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 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:
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.)