Abuse it and lose it: Brennan and Clapper no longer deserve clearances

Abuse it and lose it: Brennan and Clapper no longer deserve clearances
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Big question of the week: Should former U.S. intelligence officials who have since jumped into media positions as paid political analysts still have access to classified information?  

In light of former CIA director and current MSNBC analyst Jonn Brennan's highly critical, often vitriolic comments about the current commander in chief — along with similar sentiment coming from James ClapperJames Robert ClapperFormer intelligence chiefs slam Trump for removing officials Think this coronavirus crisis is bad? The next could be worse — if we don't act now Was President Trump spied on as part of Carter Page wiretapping? MORE, former director of national intelligence and current CNN analyst — the answer is no. 

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The reasons are obvious. For starters, although we keep getting told that the Brennans and Clappers of the world were totally apolitical and unbiased in running their agencies, the rhetoric from both men since retiring makes that prospect difficult to believe.

 

Senior government officials like Brennan and Clapper typically keep their clearances for the sake of continuity and consultation between administrations. But neither Brennan nor Clapper appear to use their access for this purpose.

Brennan, who signed with MSNBC in February, leads in this regard. Here's a few of his greatest hits from his Twitter account, including accusations of treason and a warning to "Stay tuned, Mr. Trump" regarding special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout MORE's investigation:

 
Remember, this kind of rhetoric comes from the former head of the CIA to a sitting president. Who's to say, given ominous threats like these, that Brennan won't leak classified information, to which he's still privy, to his current employer at NBC/MSNBC? 

The same goes for Clapper, who was featured in Wired magazine in May under the headline, "How a former U.S. spy chief became Trump's fiercest critic."    

"I really question his ability, his fitness to be in this office and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it," Clapper, who doesn't have a Twitter account, said of Trump in August 2017 on CNN. "Maybe he is looking for a way out."  

Clapper believes Russian meddling actually resulted in votes being changed in the 2016 election from Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillary Clinton on US leading in coronavirus cases: Trump 'did promise "America First"' Democratic fears rise again as coronavirus pushes Biden to sidelines Clintons send pizza to NY hospital staff treating coronavirus MORE to Donald Trump, even though Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFull appeals court to rehear case over McGahn subpoena Graham starts closed-door depositions in FISA probe Attorney General Barr is in a mess — and has no one to blame but himself MORE recently reconfirmed that no votes were changed. 

“To me, it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn’t affect the election, and it’s my belief they actually turned it," Clapper told PBS in May.

Intelligence officials never leak to the press, you say? Former FBI director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyIs coronavirus the final Trump crisis? Full appeals court to rehear case over McGahn subpoena Tucker Carlson: Biden's 'fading intellect' an 'opportunity' for Democrats to control him MORE, now a bestselling author who conducted a whirlwind media tour in the spring, lambasting the president on highly personal terms, did just that.

He shared FBI documents, recording his private conversations with President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump orders US troops back to active duty for coronavirus response Trump asserts power to decide info inspector general for stimulus gives Congress Fighting a virus with the wrong tools MORE, with a professor friend at Columbia University, who proceeded to share said documents with the New York Times. Comey, almost proudly, shared this fact during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in June 2017, with his stated goal being to compel the naming of a special counsel. He got his wish. 

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCoronavirus in Congress: Lawmakers who have tested positive Pennsylvania congressman tests positive for coronavirus South Carolina congressman tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) agrees with Trump — usually a hit-or-miss proposition with the senator — on the president's request to revoke security clearances of certain intelligence officers who served under the previous administration. "I told the president in private what I've been saying in public: that I think there's a great danger to having talking heads on TV who are ex-CIA agents and still have classified clearance," Paul said Monday night on Fox News. "There's a real danger they might inadvertently reveal classified information." 

Paul has called Brennan "the most biased, bigoted, over-the-top, hyperbolic sort of unhinged director of the CIA we've ever had" in other interviews on the network. 

More than a few in the media, including those from CNN, Time and the New York Times, describe Trump's request as simply an effort to "silence his critics" while lamenting the politicization of intelligence agencies.

This argument makes little sense because, at last check, the president isn't calling for Brennan or Clapper or Comey to be taken off social media or off television. The criticism will keep coming on a regular basis from all three, as it has for months and months. Removing security clearances has nothing to do with free speech. And as for politicizing intel agencies, it's painfully obvious Brennan and Clapper have done a fine job of that by contributing to the narrative, in addition to the president.  

In the end, no one is saying the president can't be criticized, even by those who once held powerful positions in government. But by doing so, of course, Brennan, Clapper and others play into Trump's argument about inherent bias against him at the highest levels by "deep state" actors.  

And the bigger takeaway is this: There is no reason for any of these men to have security clearances, 18 months into this administration, while working at news outlets where they could be compromised or simply inclined to share what shouldn't be shared. 

It's not authoritarian. It's simple logic.

Joe Concha (@JoeConchaTV) is a media reporter for The Hill.