Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Seems Like Basic Security Procedure to Me


Disclaimer: I do not support allowing government to keep secrets. Until and unless the people keeping the secrets start picking up the tab themselves, their supposed bosses -- the people who pay their salaries and finance their operations -- have an absolute right to look over the shoulders of their supposed employees at any time, at anything, for any reason. That said ...

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump is considering yanking the security clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan, an NBC News contributor; former FBI Director James B. Comey; former CIA Director Michael V. Hayden; former National Security Adviser Susan E. Rice; former Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr.; and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe. -- NBC News

In the same story, former CIA deputy chief of staff and Brennan crony Nick Shapiro calls the idea "a political attack on career national security officials who have honorably served their country for decades under both Repubs & Dems."

BUT! See that word "former" there?

John Brennan is no longer a government employee. He's a talking head for NBC News and MSNBC.

James Comey is no longer a government employee. He's all set to teach "a course on ethical leadership" at William & Mary this fall.

Michael Hayden is no longer a government employee. He's a talking head for CNN, a visiting professor at George Mason University, and a corporate director at Motorola Solutions.

Susan E. Rice is no longer a government employee. She's a research fellow at American University and a corporate director at Netflix.

James R. Clapper Jr. is no longer a government employee. He's a senior fellow at a War Party think tank (Center for a New American Security) and an adviser to a Russiagate propaganda mill (Committee to Investigate Russia).

Andrew McCabe got fired from the FBI and, so far as I can tell, is no longer a government employee at this time.

So: Do these people even HAVE security clearances, and if so, why?

Suppose you have a Top Secret security clearance. That clearance is a certification that you're trusted to to see specific Top Secret information which the government has decided you have a "need to know." If you have a Top Secret clearance related to your work maintaining nuclear weapons on a missile submarine, you can't just decide while you're on shore leave to go have a look through the remaining classified files on the JFK assassination.

None of the people mentioned above are even employed by the US government anymore. According to that government they therefore have no more "need to know" anything classified than you do or I do. Their clearances should have been revoked as soon as they resigned, retired, or got fired.

Sure, this is a little Trump political stunt, but his spokesperson makes a fair point:

Sanders accused those former officials, most of whom have served both Democratic and Republican presidents in various jobs, of having "politicized and in some cases monetized their public service."

When one of these people gets on TV and tries to tell us all what's what, they're waving around a virtual shiny badge. They're implicitly, and sometimes explicitly, touted as being soooooo important that they have access to information that we can't look at, and should be trusted to deliver the lessons associated with that information.

As far as it goes, sure, they saw stuff when they were government employees that we couldn't see; trust their opinions based on that information if you want to. But a former government employee having a current security clearance is false luster on that shiny badge unless one is abusing that clearance to illegally find out stuff that by definition he or she could no longer plausibly claim "a need to know."

Side note: Of course, there are also people who are not government employees who have security clearances -- contractors and so forth. If any of these people are doing that, they need to decide whether they're going to continue doing it or run their sucks on television. If information is important enough to be classified, it's too important to entrust to someone whose other job is commenting extemporaneously on inherently related matters on national television. I don't agree with the "classified information" bed at all, but the people who make it are expected to lie in it.

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