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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 September 2018

Brennan considers legal action to stop clearance revocations by Trump

Former CIA director has been contacted by a number of lawyers about the possibility of an injunction against president

Former CIA chief John Brennan called on Congress to block the US president's attempts to strip other intelligence officials of security clearances. AFP
Former CIA chief John Brennan called on Congress to block the US president's attempts to strip other intelligence officials of security clearances. AFP

Former CIA director John Brennan said Sunday that he is considering taking legal action to try to prevent President Donald Trump from stripping other current and former officials’ security clearances.

Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press, Mr Brennan said he has been contacted by a number of lawyers about the possibility of an injunction after Mr Trump’s move to revoke his clearance and threaten nine others who have been critical of the president or are connected to the Russia probe.

“If my clearances and my reputation as I’m being pulled through the mud now, if that’s the price we’re going to pay to prevent Donald Trump from doing this against other people, to me it’s a small price to pay,” Mr Brennan said. “So I am going to do whatever I can personally to try to prevent these abuses in the future. And if it means going to court, I will do that.”

Mr Brennan, who served in Barack Obama’s administration, said that while he will fight on behalf of his former CIA colleagues, it’s also up to Congress to put aside politics and step in. “This is the time that your country is going to rely on you, not to do what is best for your party, but what is best for the country,” he said.

Mr Trump revoked Mr Brennan’s security clearance last week, saying he felt he had to do “something” about the “rigged” probe of Russian election interference. And he has said he may do the same for nine others, including a Justice Department official whose wife worked for the firm involved in producing a dossier on Mr Trump’s ties to Russia.

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An executive order signed in 1995 by president Bill Clinton lays out the process for approving security clearances and describes a detailed revocation and appeal procedure.

Former Obama-era CIA director Leon Panetta, who also served as defence secretary, said on Sunday that Mr Trump must abide by the executive order unless he decides to change or cancel it. Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation, he said Mr Trump’s decision to revoke Mr Brennan’s clearance raises questions about whether he followed due process.

Mr Brennan’s legal warning came as other officials joined the growing chorus of critics – now more than 75 intelligence officials – denouncing Mr Trump’s security-clearance threats, saying they have a right to express their views on national security issues without fear of punishment.

Retired Navy admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under George W Bush and Mr Obama, likened it to president Richard Nixon’s use of a political enemies list.

Admiral Mullen told Fox News Sunday that while he doesn’t agree with Mr Brennan’s decision to criticise the president, the former CIA director has the right to freedom of speech unless he’s revealing classified information.

“It immediately brings back the whole concept of the enemies list,” Mr Mullen said, “and even before that, in the early '50s, the McCarthy era, where the administration starts putting together lists of individuals that don’t agree with them, and that, historically, obviously, has proven incredibly problematic for the country.”

Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin agreed with Mr Trump that Mr Brennan’s comments “really did cross a line”.

But, he said, rather than pulling officials’ security clearances, Mr Trump should avoid politicising the issue and simply deny them access to classified material.

“I don’t want to see an enemies list,” he said.

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