It is a scandal that more than one year after President TrumpDonald TrumpWendy Sherman takes leading role as Biden's 'hard-nosed' Russia negotiator Senate needs to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy — Now Former acting Defense secretary under Trump met with Jan. 6 committee: report MORE assumed office, dozens of officials serving in highly sensitive posts have not yet received full security clearances.
It appears many of them might never receive full security clearances, and only now are the American people and Congress discovering how and why this unprecedented situation occurred and continues today.
Normally, the time frame for obtaining security clearances for officials serving in highly sensitive posts takes two, three or four months at most.
Historically, the time frame for many of these clearances begins during the transition period when the identity of many important individuals serving in these posts is known by the president-elect and his transition managers.
The situation surrounding former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who has been accused of spousal abuse by two former wives and never received a full security clearance after many months of vetting, has brought the larger security clearance scandal to national attention.
The question of what the president and his White House chief of staff knew about this matter, and when they knew it, is part of a larger problem that creates serious and continuing national security dangers for the nation.
The White House staff secretary is one of the most important jobs in an administration, involving daily access to the most sensitive secrets of state, and must be held by someone who can be fully trusted with the most classified information and fully protected from being potentially blackmailed by our nation’s enemies and others who wish us ill.
It is indeed a scandal that this essential standard was not met by someone who held one of the most sensitive posts in government.
It is an equally egregious scandal that there appear to be dozens of other individuals in sensitive posts who do not possess full security clearances despite having been vetted for prolonged periods of time, which suggests there are serious problems that were uncovered during their vetting and remain unsolved while they continue to hold very sensitive posts today.
One of the most egregious and potentially dangerous instances of this security clearance scandal involves Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerKushner investment firm raises more than B: report Trump: Netanyahu 'never wanted peace' with Palestinians Biden celebrates start of Hanukkah MORE, who has never been granted a full security clearance despite a very long period of vetting. He inexcusably failed to fully report a large number of meetings with foreigners, some of whom were high-level and from nations that are hostile to the interests of America.
On one occasion, Kushner reportedly sought to create a backchannel for communications with Russia, which he did not want known by the American government during the transition, with Russians working in concert with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin, who was engaging in an attack against American democracy at the time, an attack that continues today according to intelligence, counterintelligence and law enforcement agencies.
Kushner’s security clearance problem is almost certainly under active investigation by Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerAn unquestioning press promotes Rep. Adam Schiff's book based on Russia fiction Senate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG MORE and his special counsel team. There is a real prospect that Kushner could face legal jeopardy for these failures to disclose crucial contacts on his security clearance forms.
Whether or not he faces legal jeopardy, he continues to be involved today in highly sensitive matters involving highly classified information with highly placed foreigners without the full security clearance that should be a mandatory prerequisite for any such contacts.
These security clearance scandals occur at a time when Trump and his supporters are continuing and escalating their attacks against the FBI and the Department of Justice, an ominous development in any event, made even more ominous because they occur while dozens of officials operate in sensitive posts without full security clearances that they are purportedly working with the FBI to resolve.
The security clearance scandals create a cloud over John KellyJohn Francis KellyMORE, the White House chief of staff, who at best has not presided over the effective resolution of the security clearance scandals, and at worst has been potentially less than honest with colleagues in discussing and resolving them.
The security clearance problem is indeed a scandal, affecting dozens of individuals holding sensitive posts who lack the clearance that should have been granted long ago, which creates a continuing national security risk to the nation.
This scandal must be ended immediately. Either full security clearances should be granted within 30 days, or these individuals who cannot be approved for clearance should no longer be operating, without any exceptions, in posts that would grant them access to classified information.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-Texas) and former Rep. Bill Alexander (D-Ark.), who was chief deputy majority whip of the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds an LLM in international financial law from the London School of Economics.