Screengrab from https://youtu.be/GEf_D6i_IuI

 

On Sunday, the revocation of former CIA director and all around ass-clown John Brennan’s security clearance was the main subject because there was absolutely nothing else going on in the world and the media had to fill their empty hours with stuff to save democracy from being snuffed out due to boredom. On CNN, a guy I’ve never heard of before, Paris Dennard, was paired up with Phil Mudd, a former CIA apparatchik and Resistance member, to debate the issue. To make it totally a level playing ground, the whole thing was moderated by former Obama administration official, Jim Sciutto.

Mudd, in my view, represents much of the reason for the CIA’s abject failures over the past couple of decades. He’s an analyst. He’s a dilettante who has never had to live with his bad decisions because he’s a creature of CIA headquarters. And he seems to have followed John Brennan around a lot. And we are a fortunate nation to number him among the ranks of former CIA employees.

I’ve discussed the issue of former officials retaining security clearances after they leave federal service. Unless they have transitioned to a consultant/contractor position where the clearance is required, I’m basically against allowing those clearances to remain in effect. Dennard, in fact, encapsulates a lot of my objections:

A lot of these people that have these security clearances, and this is the secret in the swampy Washington, D.C., they have them and they keep them because it’s profitable for them after they leave government, because if you a security clearance, especially high level security clearance, your contracts and consulting gig pay you a lot more money because of the access that you have. I hope the president continues to do this, and I hope he adds Omarosa to the list, because if she has a clearance, she too because of her actions should have it revoked.

If you have a toddler in your house, you can watch Mudd’s face and see what is coming.

DENNARD: I think what we have to look at is the idea of norms and laws and privileges and rights. And these are all getting confused under this administration with people thinking that because something was a norm means that it’s law. That’s not the case.

A lot of these people that have these security clearances, and this is the secret in the swampy Washington, D.C., they have them and they keep them because it’s profitable for them after they leave government, because if you a security clearance, especially high level security clearance, your contracts and consulting gig pay you a lot more money because of the access that you have. I hope the president continues to do this, and I hope he adds Omarosa

to the list, because if she has a clearance, she too because of her actions should have it revoked.

[20:15:06] SCIUTTO: I don’t know if I would put Omarosa in the same category as the 75 people who signed the letters.

But, Phil Mudd, I imagine you want to react.

MUDD: Profitable, Paris? When I am required to sit on an advisory board, let me ask you one question, how much do you think I’m paid to do that at the request of the U.S. government? Give me one answer, and you’ve got 10 seconds? How much?

I’ll take a shot at this. Absolutely no one in the nation is required to sit on an advisory board nor are they “requested.” They are invited. Likewise, virtually all advisory boards are compensated in form of travel, per diem, and a stipend for the time they are being consulted. There are advisory boards where the people serve for free, I know this because you can find where they are allowed in GAO regulations, I haven’t been able to find an example of one.

DENNARD: I’ll ask you a question. How much are you paid for your contracting gig?

MUDD: I have no contracts with the U.S. government that pay money. Zero.

DENNARD: And this is the thing.

MUDD: The U.S. government —

(CROSSTALK)

DENNARD: Phil, let’s be honest.

MUDD: That’s it.

DENNARD: I’m not talking about your role with the federal government. I’m talking about —

MUDD: Oh, who are you talking about? Are you talking General Hayden?

DENNARD: Consultant and a contractor, the consulting firms that they form and you all get is because you get more money when having a consultant — for having the security clearance. Stop acting like that doesn’t happen.

(CROSSTALK)

MUDD: That is incorrect. I have zero consulting relationships with the U.S. government. Zero.

DENNARD: I’m not talking — Phil, that’s a good talking point. I’m not talking about relationship with the government. I’m talking about in the private sector. When you a security clearance —

(CROSSTALK)

MUDD: I have zero relationships with the private sector that involve my security clearance. Zero. Zero. I get zero dollars from consulting companies that deal with the U.S. government. Are we clear?

But clearly, his role as a CNN contributor is largely dependent upon his ability to talk to people in the intelligence community about current issues and present an unclassified version of that to CNN’s audience that acts a lot like a flock of young turkeys in a rainstorm. We know how this system works from when Brennan leaked highly classified information to Richard Clarke who immediately divulged it on the air.

DENNARD: Well, he will be clear in saying that everybody in

Washington, D.C. knows — if you don’t want to be honest about it, that’s on you — but if you have a security clearance and you keep it, you get more money to have it.

MUDD: We’re done. We’re done. Get out!

SCIUTTO: Phil —

DENNARD: It’s not your show. I’m staying right here.

Don’t be so defensive about this.

Compare and contrast:

I’d toyed with posting on this, but has-been-CIA-analysts-blowing-a-gasket-when-called-out didn’t seem to be all that interesting. I mean there are literally a dozen of these people pulling in network paychecks because they still have a valid security clearance.

Then, as so often happens, a deus ex machina in the form of President Trump intervenes:

Two thoughts on this. First, I completely agree that Mudd losing his sh** calls into question his fitness to hold a security clearance. A guy that unhinged and a guy with a demonstrated pathological hatred for Trump that would qualify him for an editorship at the Weekly Standard could reasonably be expected to misuse access to information to further his personal animosity. His inability to acknowledge what is a fact, to wit, former officials hold onto clearances because they have a monetary value, shows that he’s either patently dishonest or stupid or some combination of both. Dennard was right on the facts and right on the recommendation.

Second, I don’t think that the President should be in the business of making a game of pulling clearances–and here it looks like he’s nearly setting up a Survivor scenario where we can vote Mudd off the island–nor should he tie clearances to political support for him. The line, I think, becomes when you are dealing with a one-trick pony like Brennan and Mudd and Clapper where their only visible means of support is attacking the administration. I don’t see why any administration should feel as though it has to subsidize that.

The best course for the President is to update EO 12968 to clarify that clearances automatically end upon retirement or separation. The EO already allows the granting of short-term clearances for specific projects and consultations by former government officials would fall into that category. Trump said he was going to drain the swamp and this would be a good move. But he should get on with it and not make it a joke.

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