POLITICS
08/19/2018 03:12 pm ET

John Bolton: 'Appropriate' To Review Security Clearance Policy For Former Officials

Ironically, the White House national security adviser has been accused of spinning intelligence for political purposes.

White House national security adviser John Bolton said Sunday it is “certainly appropriate” for the Trump administration to review policies that allow former government officials to keep their security clearances.

Bolton, appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” defended President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan of his security clearance.

As part of that defense, he criticized Brennan’s performance in President Barack Obama’s administration. “It was my view at the time that he and others in the Obama administration were politicizing intelligence,” Bolton said. “I think that’s a very dangerous thing to do.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested Wednesday that security clearances could be revoked for nine other former government officials ― all of whom, like Brennan, were either Trump critics or were involved in the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Several former intelligence agents have accused Trump of wanting to both punish and silence his critics by potentially revoking their security clearances. 

Allowing certain former government officials to keep their security clearances has been a longstanding practice. The informal policy has helped these former officials be able to give advice to sitting officials and serve on governmental advisory boards.

Bolton himself benefitted from the policy after serving in President George W. Bush’s administration. And during Obama’s years in the White House, he frequently appeared on TV to harshly attack the president in much the same ways Brennan has criticized Trump. Bolton once ripped Obama as “one of the most narcissistic individuals to ever hold” the presidency.

Still, Bolton said on Sunday he would stand by the White House’s decision to review the possibility of rescinding the security clearances for many former officials.

“I think it’s certainly appropriate in a time when we’re seeing, what I believe, are unprecedented leaks of highly classified information, to look at the question of how many people have clearances, how many people receive this very sensitive information ― both inside the government and in the case of former officials,” Bolton said.

“I don’t see that there would be anything wrong if it were determined to go that way to review the policies about former officials having clearances,” he added.

When asked for specific examples of when Brennan used classified information for political purposes, Bolton said he didn’t have any.

“But I think there is a line and somebody can cross it,” he said.

Bolton has been accused of spinning intelligence to support his political objectives while serving as the State Department’s undersecretary for arms control issues during Bush’s administration. For instance, in early 2002, he claimed Cuba was developing biological weapons ― an overstatement of what U.S. intelligence agencies knew about the matter, according to ProPublica

Bolton acknowledged Sunday that he had benefitted from the security clearances policy while serving on the board of directors for a company that sold defense technology to the government in the 2000s. He also noted he had been accused of using classified information to criticize the Bush administration about their policy on North Korea, but denied any wrongdoing.

“I was criticizing the Bush administration, but I was not using classified information,” he said. “Had I been? It would have been a different story.”

CONVERSATIONS