The Man Has a Point

On the matter of revoking the security clearances of certain senior government officials after they’ve left office—the Trump administration’s thinking about doing that with former CIA Director John Brennan, former FBI Director James Comey, et al., and the associated flap come to mind—former Deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli has a point.  Such a move would ring alarm bells, and one alleged motive for doing so raises this problem identified by Ereli:

I think that we’re going down a slippery slope.  Who’s to decide what’s political and what’s not political?

He’s right.  However, the wrong motive does not make the move wrong.  These folks are no longer employees of the Federal government, and so they no longer have the need to know that is one of only two Critical Items in granting a security clearance.  Nor should they have access to classified material—the other Critical Item in granting a clearance.

The right answer here is a blanket one.  All persons, on leaving government employ, should have their security clearances completely revoked; they should not have any security clearance at all.  If government needs to consult a particular individual—a senior official, like an ex-CIA Director, for instance—on a particular matter, it’s perfectly straightforward to (re)vet such an individual and grant him the clearance regarding that item which he needs in order to advise effectively on it.  The vetting and granting process could streamlined further by putting in place protocols optimized for just such a situation with just such a set of ex-senior government persons.

Similarly, it would be easy enough to grant, under the same protocols, limited clearances of limited duration to ex-Presidents so they can assemble their Presidential libraries.

2 thoughts on “The Man Has a Point

  1. As for the need to consult with them about history, and background, etc. – that’s extant knowledge on their parts, which is not expunged from their minds. They don’t need to have a clearance and access in order to discuss those matters with someone who has said clearance and access.

    • That may or may not be the case. However, the material remains classified, and so the no-longer-cleared individual cannot store, or possess, that information in any medium other than his extant wetware.
      It’s also not symmetrical. Even assuming the no-longer-cleared individual is free to discuss his classified knowledge with a cleared individual, the cleared individual is enjoined from discussing classified material with uncleared individuals–regardless of what the cleared one might think the uncleared knows or what clearance that one might have had in the past.
      Eric Hines

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