National Security

Wexton, Speier call for revamp of clearance process to screen for extremist views

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Two House Democrats are pushing the Biden administration to better screen applicants for ties to extremist groups before granting security clearances. 

In a letter to Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, Reps. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) urged the adoption of new security clearance guidelines. 

“We believe that the existing guidelines are not sufficient to address this evolving threat of domestic violent extremism. We ask that you work to address this national security threat by issuing new adjudicative guidelines that would disqualify individuals from obtaining a security clearance if there is evidence that they are involved with or have participated in activities that advocate hate, violence, or a violent political ideology,” the lawmakers wrote.

The current process, last updated in 2016, does not require individuals to report ties to extremist groups unless the organization condones violence, seeks to overthrow the government or claims to be a terrorist organization.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not immediately respond to request for comment on the letter, which comes as several participants in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol were found to have security clearances, including a former FBI employee who claimed to have held a top secret security clearance.

The lawmakers also say the process needs to more fully review a potential clearance holder’s online activity to screen for those who may not directly belong to groups but still interact with their content online.

“The domestic terror landscape has shifted dramatically to the online ecosystem where white supremacists, Neo-Nazis, and far-right extremists are free to organize and share their violent ideology with little oversight or accountability. We are concerned that the current background investigatory process does not adequately screen for these activities,” they wrote.

Tags Avril Haines Capitol breach Extremism Jackie Speier Jennifer Wexton Security clearance

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