"Former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished."
A group of nearly 200 former CIA analysts, district attorneys, Defense Department officials, FBI agents, and ambassadors have signed a public statement criticizing Donald Trump for stripping ex-CIA director John Brennan of his security clearance.
“All of us believe it is critical to protect classified information from unauthorized disclosure,” the letter reads. “But we believe equally strongly that former government officials have the right to express their unclassified views on what they see as critical national security issues without fear of being punished for doing so.”
The signatories don’t necessarily “concur with the opinions expressed by former CIA Director Brennan or the way in which he expressed them,” the statement says, but the group believes “that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views.”
Brennan’s security clearance was revoked on Aug. 15 because he was among the people who “led” the “sham” investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election, Trump told the Wall Street Journal (paywall).
The statement was tweeted by former CIA deputy chief of staff Nick Shapiro, who is now an Airbnb executive but continues to advise Brennan:
NEW: More than 175 former U.S. intelligence community and national security officials have added their names to the list of those deeply concerned by the politicization of security clearances. https://t.co/D1nuOWDetj pic.twitter.com/t6A4oEVK9r— Nick Shapiro (@nick_shapiro) August 20, 2018
Trump has antagonized the Washington, DC intelligence community since his first days in office, and his attacks on the FBI have become more intense as the special counsel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election continues. The breadth of former officials condemning his actions is remarkable, from the former ambassador to Libya and Kuwait to an ex-Navy vice admiral now working in the National Counterterrorism Center. It is particularly unusual for retired members of the military and Defense Department to criticize a president while he is in office.
Trump’s own intelligence picks have confirmed in a public hearingthat Russia interfered in the 2016 election in an attempt to denigrate Hillary Clinton. As of this morning, Trump continues to tweet that the investigation into his campaign’s alleged links to Russia’s actions is a “rigged witch hunt.” He also ascribes the former officials’ support of Brennan, who he calls a “hack,” down to the fear that they might lose their security clearances, which are “worth great prestige and big dollars.”