Several former intelligence officials have come to the defense of former CIA Director John Brennan, whose security clearance was revoked last week as part of what seems to be an effort by President Donald Trump to retaliate against his critics.
Brennan has been very outspoken against Trump, saying the president is “drunk on power,” dangerous, and has committed acts “not short of treasonous.” As a result, the administration and its supporters have focused on the style of the former director’s rhetoric ― the White House cited Brennan’s “erratic conduct” ― and shucked its meaning.
Retired Gen. James Clapper, who was director of national intelligence under President Barack Obama, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that Brennan’s bluntness shouldn’t overshadow his message.
“John is sort of like a freight train and he’s going to say what’s on his mind,” Clapper said. “I think, though, that the common denominator among all of us that have been speaking up is genuine concern about the jeopardy or threats to our institutions and values, although we may express that in different ways.”
Lisa Monaco, Obama’s homeland security adviser, agreed that Brennan’s “very pointed” criticism of Trump was rooted in the president’s own actions, including Trump’s disastrous summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki in July.
“He was really commenting on how stunning it was to him as a decadeslong national security veteran and intelligence professional to see the president stand up in Helsinki next to our main adversary — President Putin — and not challenge him, not call him out for the attack on our democracy,” she said.
On “Fox News Sunday,” retired Adm. Mike Mullen expressed similar concerns.
“I worry what [Brennan is] saying now puts him in a much more politicized position,” said Mullen, who headed up the Joint Chiefs of Staff under presidents George W. Bush and Obama. But he added that he doesn’t agree with the president’s decision to revoke Brennan’s clearance.
Trump’s pulling of clearances reminded him of the enemies lists of President Richard Nixon and the red-baiting Sen. Joe McCarthy, Mullen said.
Back on CNN, Tapper also asked the panel about a Washington Post op-ed written by retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. In it, the admiral said he would be honored to have Trump revoked his security clearance if that meant he would be added to the list of people who have spoken out against the president.
Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the CIA and National Security Agency, said he’d be fine being included in that group as well.
“Frankly, if his not revoking my clearance gave the impression that I somehow moved my commentary in a direction more acceptable to the White House, I would find that very disappointing and frankly unacceptable,” he told Tapper.
He went on to say that McRaven’s op-ed placed the security clearance issue in a broader context, adding that the attacks on Brennan are the “additional straw that’s breaking the camel’s back.”
“Our complaint is not just about this,” Hayden said. “It’s about the whole tone, tenor and behavior of the administration.”