The White House Targets Obama Era IGs for Using Security Clearance Retaliation as a Weapon

seb_ra/iStock/Getty Images Plus

As the White House goes about clearing the administration of as many Obama holdovers as possible, Real Clear Politics’ Susan Crabtree reports that officials are looking at the government’s inspectors general (IG).

IGs are the government agency’s “built-in watchdogs.” Their job is to “audit the agency’s operation in order to discover and investigate cases of misconduct, waste, fraud and other abuse of government procedures occurring within the agency.”

They’re meant to be independent and non-partisan which is a tough ask in Washington even in the best of times. In the age of Trump, it is impossible. We need only to think of DOJ IG Michael Horowitz who couldn’t quite bring himself to say that all of the FBI “mistakes” he uncovered were evidence of bias against President Trump. That said, Horowitz did conduct a thorough investigation of the “errors” that had been made.

Trump administration officials are focusing on a handful of IG’s whom they believe have worked to undermine the President’s agenda. The first IG who springs to mind is Intelligence Community IG Michael Atkinson. He received and pushed the whistleblower’s complaint last August, which triggered the baseless impeachment of President Trump. Not only did he send documents directly to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff after the DNI and the DOJ determined the complaint had not met the legal threshold of urgency or credibility, he made a quick rule change to allow the use of second-hand information for a whistleblower complaint. He also failed to report he’d had contact with the whistleblower, alleged to be Eric Ciaramella, several months after the complaint had been submitted. This was only reported after it became known that Ciaramella had contacted the Schiff team before filing his complaint. Considering two of Ciaramella’s former National Security Council colleagues and friends had recently joined Schiff’s staff, there is reason for suspicion.

A former White House official told RCP:

The federal bureaucracy has gone to war with the Trump administration, and their people have targeted and taken out many Trump’s officials. Those who are naturally responsible are the IGs and they are complicit in their inaction.

The IGs, many put in place by the Obama administration, empower the deep state to go after the administration. … It’s absolutely nuts. If [officials] were scared of the consequences of breaking the law, they wouldn’t go after the Trump administration like they do. That’s why you have the deep state gone wild. No one is watching the watchdogs.

And the watchdogs have come up with a new weapon to use against Trump appointees: security clearance retaliation.

The administration is currently focusing on two such cases in which Trump appointed whistleblowers reported government waste and wrongdoing to Obama appointed IGs. Far from the kid glove treatment received by Ciaramella, the deep state has discovered a new way to strike back: security clearance retaliation. A rarity during the Obama administration, it occurs so frequently now that Attorney Sean Bigley, who specializes in such cases, describes it as an “epidemic.”

Adam Lovinger, who, as an analyst at the Office of Net Assessment at the Pentagon (ONA) had his security clearance revoked after questioning large payments which had been made to FBI informant Stefan Halper and noticing that over $11 million in government contracts had been directed to a company owned by close friends of Chelsea Clinton. RCP reports:

Lovinger, who was removed from Trump’s NSC early in the administration, has spent nearly three years on unpaid administrative leave and the last two waiting for acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, who was appointed by Obama, to wrap up the case and issue his final report…He was later suspended from his role at the NSC and stripped of his security clearance for allegations that he brought classified material onto an airplane, a charge his lawyer says was never substantiated.

I’d like to focus today on the case of Mark Moyar, a Trump political appointee who served as the Director of the Office for Civilian-Military Cooperation at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). I’ve posted about this case before here. His service came to an abrupt end last summer after he “reported allegations of rampant government waste, fraud and abuse” inside the agency.

Moyar, a Harvard graduate, holds a doctorate in history from Cambridge University. Prior to his USAID appointment, Moyar served as the director of the Project on Military and Diplomatic History at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and had served as a member of the Hoover Institution’s Working Group on the Role of Military History in Contemporary Conflict. He has also authored more than a few history books. In April 2017, Moyar published a book entitled “Oppose Any Foe: The Rise of America’s Special Operations Forces.”

In June 2019, two years after the book was published and shortly after Moyar had reported on the “waste and abuse” of career bureaucrats at USAID, the agency suspended his security clearance.

USAID officials maintain their decision stemmed from charges made by U.S. Special Operations Command that he disclosed classified information.

In a sworn statement obtained by RCP, Moyar “questions the timing of the USSOCOM allegation,” claims it is “spurious, unfounded and an act of retaliation.” In addition, he argues that “some of the officials he cited for the abuse conspired with senior career USAID officials to gin up or misinterpret SOCOM findings that his book revealed classified material, done as an excuse to oust him over his efforts to expose waste and abuse at the agency.”

The USAID OIG is blaming the suspension of Moyar’s security clearance on issues with the intelligence community’s pre-publication process, a process that is notorious for its vagaries, seems more a convenient excuse than an actual reason.

It is important to note that RCP spoke to several current and former USAID employees, who wish to remain anonymous. “They described CMC as toxic and dysfunctional before Moyar arrived. Many staffers who were part of an internal clique only showed up for a few hours a day, if at all, while others were often on questionable travel.”

RCP reported that, “before Moyar was tapped to lead the CMC, it had some of the lowest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey scores in all of USAID, a public sign of the office’s weak morale. After Moyar’s forced resignation, these same sources said that the CMC returned to a state of dysfunction, with at least three officials on their way out and their jobs advertised on USAjobs.gov, an online clearinghouse for open federal government positions.”

Moyar decided to fight back, as he very well should, against the injustice he was dealt. In mid-January, Moyar sent a letter, including case-related documentation, to several lawmakers to enlist their support in his fight against what certainly appears to be another case of the deep state unfairly targeting a Trump supporter. Moyar wrote that he was terminated, then forced to resign. RCP obtained copies of those documents.

Moyar wrote that USAID’s suspension of his security clearance and their “decision to tell the White House Office of Presidential Personnel that he cannot hold a security clearance” has made it nearly impossible to find a new position. He is suffering financially and “fears he may never get a fair hearing.” He also stated:

The USAID administrator has the authority to reverse wrongful decisions and to seek investigative assistance from outside the agency, which is clearly necessary in light of the bias demonstrated by USAID [Office of Inspector General] and [the USAID Security Office].

If this precedent is allowed to stand, then in the future the Deep State can remove any political appointee by simply having their friends in one agency send an unsubstantiated allegation of security clearance infraction to another agency.

And Moyar called on members of Congress to contact “USAID leadership, the White House, the Department of Justice and anyone else who might be able to help rectify the matter.”

Several lawmakers answered the call and their efforts succeeded in getting the USAID inspector general, Anna Calvaresi Barr, an Obama appointee, to reopen the case. It also didn’t hurt that RCP published a widely read article about Moyar’s story. They revealed Barr’s conclusion that “Moyar didn’t have whistleblower protections afforded to other security-clearance holders after USAID officials suspended his clearance and threatened to fire him last summer.”

The new investigation has been completed and Moyar and his attorney, Kel McClanahan, are waiting to hear the result.

RCP reports that Barr “is expected to finalize its formal report on that reopened probe as early as this week.”

McClanahan told RCP, “We are happy they chose to reopen this, and we believe [the way Moyar was treated] was a grave error. We’re optimistic that this new, more thorough Report of Investigation will vindicate everything he said.”

Elizabeth Vaughn
Writer at RedState
MBA, former financial consultant, options trader
Mom of three grown children, grandmother
Email Elizabeth at [email protected]

 
Read more by Elizabeth Vaughn