Two Democratic senators on Wednesday asked senior U.S. intelligence officials to review the security clearance given to Donald TrumpDonald TrumpJan. 6 committee chair says panel will issue a 'good number' of additional subpoenas Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — Pentagon officials prepare for grilling Biden nominates head of Africa CDC to lead global AIDS response MORE’s pick for national security adviser after reports that he “inappropriately shared” classified material.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn's sharing of CIA operations in Afghanistan “was not done knowingly” and “there was no actual or potential damage to national security as a result,” a secret U.S. military investigation determined in 2010.
But the news has reignited criticism that the fiery former general plays by his own rules when it comes to intelligence.
“Based on public reports, [Flynn’s] conduct in positions that require access to national defense information, and his subsequent private practice, appears inconsistent with the professionalism such access requires,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenKoch-backed group launches 7-figure ad blitz opposing .5T bill Senate lawmakers let frustration show with Blinken We have a plan that prioritizes Afghanistan's women — we're just not using it MORE (D-N.H.) wrote in a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and OPM acting Director Beth Colbert.
Normally, the decision to approve or deny security clearances rests with the employing federal agency.
The guidelines that officials use are standard across the government. They provide a framework of concerns that agencies are allowed to consider when deciding whether to grant access — and prior history of mishandling classified information would certainly fall within the scope of a permitted concern, lawyers who specialize in security clearances say.
If someone is denied, there is an administrative appeals process but no right to judicial review.
In theory, Trump, as president, could override any concerns that an adjudicating agency might have.
It is not known which country or countries Flynn allegedly gave the classified material to, though Flynn has said that the case concerned British and Australian forces, both allies.
Flynn has also been accused of disclosing sensitive U.S. intelligence powers to the government of Pakistan, but there does not appear to have been a formal investigation into the incident.
Flynn is also known for sharing false news stories on Twitter and his tendency to make dubious assertions that have little basis in documented fact during his tenure at the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Subordinates at the DIA reportedly compiled a list of what they called “Flynn facts” —nuggets of false information that Flynn would present as true.
Flynn has separately described to the New Yorker how he would avoid “insane” rules set by the CIA and other intelligence agencies in Iraq and at the Pentagon.
It was not immediately clear if Flynn still holds an active security clearance. The information is protected under the Privacy Act and absent permission from each person, the only way it can be made public is if the agency which provided it sees an overriding public interest in disclosure — an unlikely scenario.
That history has critics worried about Flynn's role in a Trump administration.
Asked about Trump’s reluctance to receive the daily security briefings usually given to the president-elect, spokesman Jason Miller has said that Flynn is keeping Trump “up to date.”
The call from Blumenthal and Shaheen echoes cries from Republicans during the campaign for aides to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE to lose their security clearances because of her use of a personal server while secretary of State — although it was unlikely that any of the implicated aides continued to hold active clearances, awarded on a need-to-know basis.
The lawmakers also raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest related to Flynn’s ownership of the Flynn Intel Group, which he has used to lobby on behalf of foreign clients in the past.