Donald Trump blacklists ex-CIA chief Brennan, threatens same for other critics

Donald Trump revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan

world Updated: Aug 16, 2018 11:06 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Washington, Hindustan Times
donald trump,john brennan,Ex-CIA chief
Donald Trump claimed that John Brennan -- a former station chief in Riyadh who rose to lead the formidable spy agency -- had become “erratic.”(Reuters File Photo)

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday revoked the security clearance of one of his most vocal critics - former Central Intelligence Agency director John Brennan - and indicated that other critics from previous administrations could face the same action.

“As the head of the executive branch and commander-in-chief, I have a unique constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information, including by controlling access to it. I have decided to revoke the security clearance of John Brennan, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency,” Trump said in a statement read out by White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.

Trump said Brennan had displayed “erratic conduct and behavior”, misled Congress on accessing staffs’ computer and made “a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations -- wild outbursts on the Internet and television -- about this administration”.

Undeterred by the White House announcement, Brennan tweeted, “This action is part of a broader effort by Mr. Trump to suppress freedom of speech & punish critics. It should gravely worry all Americans, including intelligence professionals, about the cost of speaking out. My principles are worth far more than clearances. I will not relent.”

Earlier, Brennan had called Trump’s performance at his joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin “treasonous” and that “Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin”.

Others who could face a similar action include former director of national intelligence and country’s top spy James Clapper, former national security adviser Susan rice, former FBI director James Comey and deputy attorney general Sally Yates, all Obama appointees; and Michael Hayden CIA director from the Bush administration.

Also on the list are former FBI official Andrew McCave, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and, a currently serving official, Bruce Ohr, all of whom have had some role to play in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in US polls in 2016 and the Trump campaign’s possible collusion.

Security clearances are extended to officials from previous administrations to enable to continue to interact with their successors and share their knowledge and expertise with them.

There are nearly 4.1 million people with security clearance currently, 1.3 million of them with top security clearance, according to an official report cited by US media.

Administrations routinely extend them to outgoing administration officials out of, among other thing, courtesy, as President Trump noted in his announcement. Hayden, for instance, retained his security clearance through eight years of the Obama administration.

Trump has been perturbed and angered by continuing criticism from them, which has been relentless and serious, and the administration threatened some days ago to rescind their security clearance.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 09:30 IST