WH’s security process ‘broken’
FBI, administration at odds again
WASHINGTON — The nation’s top intelligence officials and national security experts warned yesterday that the White House security clearance process — which allowed a former aide accused of domestic assault to handle classified information — is “broken” and poses a national security threat.
“The process is broken,” Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats told lawmakers at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing yesterday. “It needs to be reformed.”
The warnings came as FBI Director Christopher Wray testified under oath that the White House was given a security assessment of former White House aide Rob Porter nearly a year ago, and again in July and November — contradicting claims by White House officials that they were unaware of abuse allegations by Porter’s ex-wives until last week.
Coats went on to say that in the case of White House officials with interim clearance — a category that reportedly includes dozens of White House staffers including senior aides and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner — “access has to be limited in terms of the kind of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive.”
“The specter of Jared Kushner hangs over everything,” said national security attorney Bradley P. Moss. He noted the difficulty in forcing those without full security clearance to either clear up their issues or leave the White House “as long as Kushner has an unprecedented level of access to classified information like the daily intelligence briefing.”
Wray said the FBI submitted “a partial report” on Porter in March, and then sent “a complete background investigation in late July” — a timeline that contradicts White House statements that law enforcement agencies had not completed their review of Porter at the time of his resignation last week.
“We received a request for follow-up inquiry, and we did the follow up and provided that information in November, then we administratively closed the file in January,” Wray said, “Then earlier this month we received some additional information and we passed that on as well.”
Yesterday White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders attributed the delay in finalization of Porter’s clearance to an internal White House review that was ongoing. On Monday, she had stated that White House officials did not control the clearance process, and added that they were waiting for an ongoing external law enforcement agency review — an explanation that Wray’s statement contradicts.
“The White House Personnel Security Office, staffed by career officials … had not made the recommendation for adjudication to the White House because the process was still ongoing when Porter resigned,” Sanders told reporters yesterday.
Sanders said that after the July FBI report, the White House “required significant additional investigatory field work before personal security office could begin the evaluate the information for adjudication.”
She did not address Wray’s statement that the FBI provided that information in November.
ISSUES OF CLEARANCE: FBI Director Christopher Wray, top right, warned the White House security clearance process is ‘broken’ after Rob Porter was given an interim clearance. President Trump’s senior adviser, Jared Kushner, right, was also granted interim clearance.