WORLD Trump doubles down on security clearances, former officials slam move

WORLD

Trump doubles down on security clearances, former officials slam move

CGTN

02:54, August 19, 2018

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Former CIA director John Brennan is sworn in to testify before the House Intelligence Committee to take questions on "Russian active measures during the 2016 election campaign" on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 23, 2017. (Photo: VCG)

President Donald Trump faced an unprecedented outcry from former intelligence officials on Friday after stripping the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, but Trump defended his move and said he planned another one soon. 

A bipartisan group, which included Robert Gates, George Tenet, David Petraeus, James Clapper and Leon Panetta, lashed out at the president in a scathing letter released late on Thursday. By Friday evening, a separate group of 60 former intelligence officers added their voices in their own letter. 

Brennan, a former official in the Obama administration and sharp critic of Trump, has said he will not be deterred by the removal of his security clearance. Brennan described Trump’s actions at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month as treasonous. 

Trump defended his decision, announced on Wednesday, saying it had elevated the former CIA chief rather than hampered his freedom of speech. 

The president also told reporters he was likely to revoke the clearance of Bruce Ohr, a Department of Justice official who is linked to a dossier on Trump's campaign and Russia compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. 

Brennan, a former official in the Obama administration and sharp critic of Trump, has said he will not be deterred by the removal of his security clearance. Brennan described Trump’s actions at a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki last month as treasonous. 

Trump defended his decision, announced on Wednesday, saying it had elevated the former CIA chief rather than hampered his freedom of speech. 

The president also told reporters he was likely to revoke the clearance of Bruce Ohr, a Department of Justice official who is linked to a dossier on Trump's campaign and Russia compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele. 

Like the signatories of the first letter, the 60 former CIA officers said that while they do not necessarily agree with Brennan's opinions, "It is our firm belief that the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied before seasoned experts are allowed to share their views." 

Trump challenged the suggestion that he was trying to silence critics by taking away security clearances. "There's no silence. If anything, I'm giving them a bigger voice," he said. 

The White House said it was studying a list of other individuals for security clearance review, and Trump suggested Ohr was at the top of that list.

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