Congress Forced Move After Putin’s Friend in the Oval Office Interfered in Clearance Process for Jared and Ivanka
The Trump Administration, after making a mess of security clearances for federal workers and contractors, is about to hand off to the Pentagon the biggest change in the clearance system in a half-century.
Concern about the security clearance system is not new, but the Government Accountability Office documents serious deterioration since Trump took office. The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress.
The Trump Administration did such a poor job with security clearances that in 2018 the GAO put the entire security clearance system on its High-Risk List.
That’s not surprising given Donald Trump’s continual attacks on our national intelligence agencies as he praises the integrity of Vladimir Putin.
The Trump Administration did such a poor job with security clearances that in 2018 the GAO put the entire security clearance system on its High-Risk List.ADVERTISEMENT
In May 2017 in the Oval Office, Trump gave sensitive sources and methods secrets to the Russian foreign minister and the Russian ambassador. Only a Russian government photographer was allowed to join the meeting, which the American people learned about from Russian state media. More on this here, here and here.
Asserting his view that the president is an all-powerful dictator who may do as he chooses, Trump insists he enjoys an “absolute right” to give away any American secrets to hostile foreign powers. In a series of tweets on May 16, 2017, outlining this view he also attacked the American intelligence community.
Clearances for Family Members
Trump, we should never forget, ignored the strong advice of seasoned national security officials who objected to granting clearances to his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his daughter Ivanka. Numerous revisions to their SF-86 security clearance forms were made when a single change is often enough to prompt rejection. Trump personally ordered that the family members get clearances, although he also insisted he had never “interfered” in the process.
Under the new law, security background checks will move to the Defense Department from the National Background Investigations Bureau, which is part of the Office of Personnel Management, our government’s HR department. Presumably, Trump, who has minimal management skills, will be less likely to interfere with the Pentagon than with the civilian Office of Personnel Management.
The law was sponsored by Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The changes are in Section 901 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018. It requires the Secretary of Defense to take charge of security clearance investigations by October 1, 2020, the first day of the 2021 budget year. All personnel background and security investigations will be handled by the Defense Department’s Consolidated Adjudication Facility.
The conference committee report on the bill said that the “current situation of massive clearance delays has serious adverse effects on national security and must be addressed in order to avoid any further damage” to military readiness.
The Defense Department had been on the GAO High-Risk List but was taken off that list in 2011, during the Obama administration.
In its 2019 report, GAO said that the security clearance system “it faces significant challenges related to (1) the timely processing of clearances, (2) measuring investigation quality, and (3) ensuring IT security, among other things, the GAO reported. “The executive branch has been unable to process personnel security clearances within established timeliness objectives, contributing to a backlog that the NBIB reported to be approximately 565,000 cases as of February 2019.”
That backlog hit a high of 725,000 in April 2018, 15 months into the Trump administration.
The GAO warned about likely problems with the Defense Department taking over the security clearance process. Among the problems, antiquated computer systems “may delay planned milestones for the new system.” Known weaknesses in the Office of Personnel Management computer systems were not properly monitored, the GAO found. But since Trump has been pumping more money into the Pentagon, hopefully some will go for modern computers and software to track security clearances and keep them updated.
To improve the security clearance system the GAO said there is a need to develop a long-term plan, to coordinate between agencies and to obtain more funding. All three recommendations run against the helter-skelter nature of the Trump administration, whose leader operates from emotionally charged seat-of-the-pants ignorance, denigrates all our national security agencies while expressing trust in the Kremlin and spends on hardware, not systematic improvements, and like spending on war material. Trump barely knows how to use a computer. The Pentagon is awash in computers with sophisticated software.
The system for granting and renewing security clearances was troubled long before Trump took office. But any thought that the Trump Administration has the best people to fix this problem, or the right attitude, is at war with the known facts. Let’s hope the Pentagon does better, and operates free from the ineptitude of this White House.
How Moscow Mitch won a new Russian plant in his home state of Kentucky
Critics of a Kremlin-linked industrial giant investing $200 million in a new aluminum plant in Kentucky gives Moscow political influence that could undermine national security. Pointing to Moscow’s use of economic leverage to sway European politics, they warn the deal is a stalking horse for a new kind of Russian meddling in America, one that exploits the U.S. free-market system instead of its elections. What worries national-security experts is not that any of the businessmen who put the deal together broke any laws. It’s that they didn’t. A Time magazine investigation found that the Russian aluminum company, Rusal, used a broad array of political and economic tools to fight sanctions the U.S. had placed on Russian businesses, establishing a foothold in U.S. politics in the process. To free itself from sanctions, Rusal fielded a team of high-paid lobbyists for an intense, months-long effort in Washington. One of the targets was Kentucky’s own Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, who helped thwart a bipartisan push to keep the sanctions in place. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, one of Rusal’s longtime major shareholders contributed more than $1 million through his companies to a GOP campaign fund tied to McConnell.
We can already predict where Trump really stands on Hong Kong for one very depressing reason
As China masses troops outside Hong Kong to put down popular protests seeking freedom, Donald Trump made clear that he has no idea what to do, an admission of utter incompetence. But from his past comments and behavior we know what to expect—Trump will side with mass murder over freedom seekers.
"The Hong Kong thing is a very tough situation—very tough. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said Tuesday in Morristown, N.J.
"It’s a very tricky situation. I think it will work out and I hope it works out, for liberty,” he said. “I hope it works out for everybody, including China. I hope it works out peacefully. I hope nobody gets hurt. I hope nobody gets killed.”
There’s a huge healthcare issue no 2020 presidential candidate is addressing
There is something pretty basic—and important—about this division we’re seeing among Democratic candidates about healthcare that, surprisingly, is too often missing from the discussion—prices of providing health.
As the presidential candidates sink into details about their various versions of how to provide insurance coverage, it is assumed that a huge federal bureaucracy can negotiate acceptably lower prices. Indeed, the discussion of Medicare for All with or without private insurers versus incrementally expanding Obamacare versus other forms of extending the human right to healthcare is all about the price of insurance and deductibles rather than the cost of actual care. The cost of prescription drugs is the exception: That issue has indeed drawn public attention.