President’s decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance takes the US down a dangerous path
© Getty Images

The Nixonian dirty trick playbook is open and Donald Trump is flipping through the pages.

To take revenge on one more individual on his enemies list, the president is once again putting political consideration and personal animosity above national security.

ADVERTISEMENT

As a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I focus on the many threats to our national security. A security clearance is a tool of national security and should no more be used to make a political point than a gun, a surveillance device or any other tool critical to our safety. 

Former leaders of the intelligence community maintain their clearances so they can offer counsel and act as advisors on a nonpartisan basis. We are safer for their willingness to continue serving by sharing their knowledge and experience. Their clearances should be revoked only for good cause.

In no way is former CIA director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanNew book: Putin tried to reinforce Trump’s belief in a ‘deep state’ undermining him Retired admiral resigned from Pentagon advisory committee after writing open letter to Trump Rand Paul ramps up his alliance with Trump MORE a threat to national security. The truth is the opposite. John Brennan is an invaluable asset to our national security and to the United States as a whole. You could count on one hand the number of individuals with more expertise in his field, and his conduct has demonstrated the most critical attribute of an intelligence professional: willingness to speak truth to power. Scores of former intelligence officials, including 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors and a former director of national intelligence, wrote a letter supporting Brennan and opposing the President’s action.

Sadly, the president’s priority is not our security. President TrumpDonald John TrumpHannity urges Trump not to fire 'anybody' after Rosenstein report Ben Carson appears to tie allegation against Kavanaugh to socialist plot Five takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate MORE’s goal, as he admitted, is to silence critics and prevent former – and current – public officials from expressing their personal opinions. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal printed on Aug. 15, President Trump offered that his motivation was Brennan’s involvement in the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign. This security clearance revocation is not just about Brennan: this is larger than one individual; it is a warning to other senior intelligence officials not to publicly voice criticism of the president, his campaign, or any of his policies.

Rather than stand behind them, the president continues to undermine the professional men and women of the intelligence community, the integrity of their work, and the veracity of their findings. He has demonstrated yet again that the only thing that matters to him is unflinching loyalty to his cult of personality.

We must ask ourselves, if he is willing to do this, what else is Trump willing to do? Will he revoke the security clearances of hard-working professionals in the intelligence community who do not produce reports he likes? What about the clearances of members of the judiciary who approve FISA warrants? If a retired general officer in the armed services speaks out against the president, will he find his retirement benefits cancelled? Will those opposed to the president’s policies find the careers of their children in government service stymied? Such actions are only a few steps further down the path the president is already on, using his legitimate authority as the head of the executive branch and Commander in Chief for illegitimate ends. It is time for both parties in Congress to exhibit the same courage as the scores of former intelligence leaders who have condemned the president’s actions and call a halt to the president’s dangerous behavior.

Himes serves as the ranking member of the NSA and Cybersecurity Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.