Former CIA director Leon Panetta rallied to the cause of supporting fellow ex-spy chief John Brennan, who had his security clearance stripped by President Donald Trump, by questioning whether the president had the authority to do so.
Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Panetta referenced an executive order signed by President Bill Clinton and updated by President George W. Bush, while declaring that Trump is “now going after people.”
“The president, obviously, has power with regards to security clearances,” he said. “But his power is also limited by an executive order that makes very clear that when it comes to the revocation of a security clearance that it has to be based on national security issues not the politics of somebody, not what that person has said, not how they dress, not how they look but based on national security issues.”
“This president is now going after people,” Panetta added.
And make no mistake about it, this was a intentional effort to belittle the president’s decision as Panetta went so far as to claim that Trump, when faced with a “bad news day,” may revoke other security clearances to change the news cycle.
“I think that’s a real misuse of not only security clearances. I think it’s a misuse of the office of the presidency,” he proclaimed.
Panetta, who served as CIA director under President Obama from 2009 to 2011, said that Trump “is not above the law” and “has to abide by that executive order unless he is prepared to change it.”
Moderator Margaret Brennan, who opened the segment by characterizing Trump’s action as an effort “to silence critics in the intelligence community,” asked Panetta if he was suggesting that the decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance was not a valid action.
“I think there are questions raised as to whether or not this president has followed the executive order, and whether or not he’s provided due process to those that are going to have their security clearances revoked,” he replied.
But Panetta, one of many former top level officials with security clearance, may have let the cat out of the bag early on in the interview when he said “our concern” is that this status is going to be used as a political tool.
Which could mean that the rallying is more about others looking to hang on to their clearances than it is to support a bloviating windbag like Brennan, who’s makes his living nowadays as a contributor on the anti-Trump network MSNBC.
Lost in the mix is the question of why do all these former officials retain access to some of our nation’s most closely guarded secrets?
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