WASHINGTON (NYTIMES) - In a remarkable attack on a political opponent, US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (Aug 15) revoked the security clearance of John Brennan, the former CIA director under President Barack Obama, citing what he called Brennan’s “erratic” behaviour.
The White House had threatened last month to strip Brennan and other Obama administration officials – including Susan Rice, the former national security adviser; and James Clapper Jr, the former director of national intelligence – of their security clearances.
At the time, Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said that Trump was considering doing it because “they politicised, and in some cases monetised, their public service and security clearances.”
Trump has questioned the loyalties of national security and law enforcement officials and dismissed some of their findings – particularly the conclusion that Moscow intervened in the 2016 election – as attacks against him.
Brennan has become a frequent critic of Trump since the 2016 presidential election, often taking to Twitter to question the president’s ability to serve in the Oval Office.
In a tweet this week, Brennan criticised Trump for the language that the president used to attack Omarosa Manigault Newman, his former top aide, whom Trump called a “dog.”
Brennan wrote, “It’s astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity. Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person.
"So disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation.”
Trump’s decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance was announced by Sanders.
She said the president was reviewing the security clearances of other former Democratic officials who have been critics of the president.
Those include, among others, Rice; Clapper; Michael V. Hayden, the former head of the CIA and National Security Agency; and Sally Yates, the former acting attorney-general.
The list also includes a current high-ranking Justice Department official, Bruce Ohr, whom Trump has criticised on Twitter because of his association with Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier containing damaging information about Trump.
Sanders read a statement from Trump that indicated that the reason for the revocation of Brennan’s security clearance was because he is among a group of former officials who have “transitioned into highly partisan” people.
Former high-ranking officials in defence, intelligence, diplomacy and law enforcement usually maintain their clearances to advise those still in government.
A clearance also serves a more personally profitable function: helping departing officials get jobs at security contractors or similar firms.
Revoking their access to classified information could weaken their ability to work as consultants, lobbyists and advisers in Washington.
Nearly 4.1 million people have security clearances, according to the most recent report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, including 1.3 million with top secret clearances.