Friday August 17, 2018
Washington (AFP) - Former CIA directors and another half dozen of America's most senior spies have issued an unprecedented condemnation of President Donald Trump, after his decision to blacklist their colleague John Brennan.
In a statement, ex-CIA bosses appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents -- including Robert Gates, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus -- denounced Trump's decision to strip Brennan of his security clearance.
"The president's action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances -- and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech," the statement read.
Describing Trump's move as "inappropriate and deeply regrettable," they insisted "we have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case."
Two of those who signed the statement -- former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director Michael Hayden -- have been cited by Trump as on a list of people who could lose their clearance.
Former officials often retain security clearance after leaving office to allow their successors to consult them on issues of the day.
After the White House said Brennan -- a notable Trump critic -- had been stripped of clearance due to his "erratic" behavior, Trump admitted it was because of his criticism and comments on the Trump campaign's ties with Russia.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, admitted his decision on Brennan's clearance was linked to the ongoing federal probe into possible collusion between his campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 election.
"I call it the rigged witch hunt, [it] is a sham," was quoted as saying in the interview. "And these people led it!"
"So I think it's something that had to be done," he added.
Trump's actions have been widely condemned, including by respected former admiral William McRaven, the commander of the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," he said.
But most of Trump's Republican allies have defended the move or refused to condemn it publicly.
On Friday, Trump said he would likely remove the security clearance of Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, who has been targeted by Trump supporters, in part because his wife worked for a company that produced a dossier alleging Russia had incriminating evidence against the now president.
"Bruce Ohr is a disgrace. I suspect I'll be taking it away very quickly," Trump told journalists.
STATEMENT FROM FORMER SENIOR INTELLIGENCE OFFICIALS
As former senior intelligence officials, we feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House regarding the removal of John Brennan’s security clearances.
We know John to be an enormously talented, capable, and patriotic individual who devoted his adult life to the service of this nation. Insinuations and allegations of wrongdoing on the part of Brennan while in office are baseless.
Since leaving government service John has chosen to speak out sharply regarding what he sees as threats to our national security. Some of the undersigned have done so as well. Others among us have elected to take a different course and be more circumspect in our public pronouncements.
Regardless, we all agree that the president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security
clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech.
You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and, again, not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information. We have never before seen the
approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.
Beyond that, this action is quite clearly a signal to other former and current officials.
As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech – even
when that right has been used to criticize us – that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable.
Decisions on security clearances should be based on national security concerns and not political
William H. Webster, former Director of Central Intelligence (1987-1991)
George J. Tenet, former Director of Central Intelligence (1997-2004)
Porter J. Goss, former Director of Central Intelligence, (2005-2006)
General Michael V. Hayden, USAF, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
Leon E. Panetta, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2009-2011)
General David H. Petraeus, USA, Ret., former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
James R. Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence (2010-2017)
John E. McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (2000-2004)
Stephen R. Kappes, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2006-2010)
Michael J. Morell, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2010-2013)
Avril Haines, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2013-2015)
David S. Cohen, former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (2015-2017)