Revoke clearance

For many years, I held a Secret, and once a Top Secret, security clearance working as a senior research and development engineer on a wide variety of government contracts.

A security clearance is granted only following an exhaustive background check, for you are trusted with national secrets. Violation of your clearance, depending on the nature and frequency of the violation, can cost you your job or even land you in jail.

The most common violation of a security clearance is the accidental misuse of classified papers or digital documents. For example, leaving a classified document unattended or handing a classified document to an uncleared person or sending it to an unclassified computer.

If you are no longer in the “need to know,” your security clearance for that assignment is terminated. Clearances may be renewed if you work on a new assignment.

I am astounded to hear that senior officials who retire from government employment are allowed to keep security clearances for life “as a courtesy.” That would appear to violate the “need to know” condition for which security clearances are granted. Exactly what is the need for this lifetime “courtesy?”

The explanation is so that senior officials in office can consult with their retired predecessors. But that could be done without needing a security clearance. In the very unique situation the needed expertise is not otherwise available, the retired senior official could be granted a renewed clearance. Expeditiously, this is accomplished via the constantly revolving door of “beltway bandit” government consulting contractors headquartered in or near Washington DC who specialize in hiring former government senior officials and sponsor their renewed clearances.

I call on President Trump to revoke the security clearances of all senior officials who retire from government employment, regardless of whether they speak well or badly of him. That has nothing to do with First Amendment rights, for retired senior officials same as any citizen can speak out as they see fit. But this has everything to do with restricting the nation’s secrets to exclusively the “need to know.” As a side benefit, this would eliminate the stigma of a presidential “enemy list” for revoking the clearances only of former senior officials who speak badly of the president.