Boots & Sabers

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0915, 24 Jul 18

Revoking Security Clearences

The White House is talking about revoking the security clearances of former employees. I’ll admit, I didn’t know that former employees still had security access.

There are many kinds of security clearances and many different types of access. CIA directors and deputy directors, for example, have access to some of America’s most closely-held secrets. Your standard CIA employee, while still have a high security clearance by federal government standards, does not have the same level of access. And when a CIA director leaves, he or she is bumped to down to the basic level of clearance.

“When I walked out the door, I was actually removed from access to a whole bunch of extremely sensitive material because there was a determination made that I didn’t need to have that — the government didn’t need me to have that,” former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell told CBS News on Monday. “But I kept that basic level of security clearance.”

Former high-ranking government employees can in some cases ask for and receive a security briefing on a certain subject. But the purpose of extending security clearances is to help the U.S. government, not the people who have them.

It seems to me that any good security protocol would limit the number of people with access to the minimum number necessary and giving access to former employees would never be a good idea. In the private sector, former employees would never be granted access to rifle through the secrets of their former employer. Why would we accept a lower standard in the public sector?

I did not realize that former federal employees still had security access. They never should have and the Trump Administration would do the nation a service to end the practice now. It is just a security hole waiting to be exploited (and has already been exploited).


0915, 24 July 2018


  1. Merlin

    Unless the rules of the game have changed, and after Hillary Clinton you can certainly make a pretty good argument that there are few rules anymore, your security clearance terminated upon separation. Security clearances above secret even used to require renewals at intervals if you remained in the same covered position long term. Switching positions between agencies requiring the same level of clearance triggered a renewal and some of those FBI field checks were rather extensive. Nobody who has separated from military or federal service should retain an active security clearance beyond separation.

  2. Le Roi du Nord

    “It’s not just a courtesy,” Morell said. “For as long as I have been aware, which is probably two decades, former senior officials have kept their clearances. And the purpose is not to benefit the individual. It’s to benefit the government. So, for example, I go into CIA regularly and I help them think through issues, I talk to people, I’m there to assist in any variety of ways. I also serve on a government commission that I could not serve on without having my clearances.”

    “It is to benefit the government”.  That makes sense, eh?

    Cherry picking an article doesn’t always prove anything.  And Comey doesn’t even have a security clearance.


  3. Merlin

    Some former federal employees do retain security clearances as 1099 consultants “at the convenience of the government” because the government still determines the extent of “need to know”. Compliance with any clearance’s requirements and restrictions is primarily a matter of honor and integrity.

    Where this gets dicey is when the 1099 consultants retain clearances by political favor, then work as paid domestic corporate lobbyists or even more lucratively as paid foreign agent lobbyists/consultants. The guys mentioned in the article are not retired aerospace structural design engineers consulting occasionally for Boeing or Lockheed Martin on defense programs. They are partisan political enemies of the current Administration unlikely to do any government consulting anytime soon.

  4. Jason

    >“It is to benefit the government”.  That makes sense, eh?

    I’m glad you’re here to tell us that the risks are far outweighed by the benefits.


    >And Comey doesn’t even have a security clearance.


    Uhm, thanks?   You’re the first one to mention “Comey” in this discussion.  “Whataboutism” is such a childish tact.

  5. MHMaley

    These are just the first on a long list of Trump enemies that he wants to deal with .

    Obviously in this administration you can only enrich yourself while you are actively working in government unless you are the President , a relative of the President or a
    Russian Oligarch .

  6. Le Roi du Nord

    “Sanders said Trump is also looking into the clearances for other former officials and Trump critics, including former FBI Director James Comey; former Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe; former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper; former National Security Adviser Susan Rice and former CIA Director Michael Hayden (who also worked under President George W. Bush).”   from Fox News


    Looks like I certainly wasn’t the first (see above).  Comey and McCabe didn’t have any security clearance once trump let them go, so that is why I mentioned him; another piece of the trump/sanders policy of shoot first-aim later.

  7. Merlin

    Political patronage has always been a fickle bitch. This is exactly why a bureaucracy’s civil servants receive protections that allow them to remain somewhat immune from political persecution as the two parties take turns occupying the throne.

    Political appointees serve at their patron’s discretion and have no such protections. When their patron leaves office, so do they. People like Comey, Lynch, and Brennan chose to serve who they perceived would be their new master. Voters decided otherwise. They were not career GS-10s suddenly shown the door for sleeping at their desks. It has been their choice to deliberately antagonize a new administration and thereby invite retribution. What’s new here is that Trump is proving not to be the usual Republican punching bag and the DC crowd finds it quite unnerving. The old crotch grabber throws a pretty mean punch himself.

    And yet his polling numbers keep edging upward.

  8. Paul

    “…looking into…”

    Someone put geezer Le Roi du Bore in the nursing home before it harms someone.

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