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Former CIA Director John Brennan, one of several officials whose security clearances the Trump White House has threatened to revoke. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump White House said on Monday that it was considering revoking the security clearances of several former intelligence officers who have criticized the administration. While clearances are not entitlements — they are granted based on an individual's need and capacity to handle classified information and can always be denied or revoked — the Hatch Act already obligates officials to keep partisan politics out of their day jobs.

Why it matters: A partisan litmus test for security clearances is unnecessary and inappropriate. It risks chilling the speech of current and former government officials, whose insights benefit both the national security community and the public.

How it works: Obtaining a clearance is an intrusive experience. Levels of clearance are carefully tied to individual job responsibilities, and the clearance process requires extensive disclosures and character references. This transparency is critical in ensuring that no government officials have connections to third parties that would leave them open to extortion, putting both their own and the nation's security at risk. 

Many former officials — from both political parties or none at all — maintain security clearances in order to both advise the government and to work for companies in the national security space. Keeping these experts on-tap is a common practice that benefits the national security workforce.

The bottom line: While President Trump may want to challenge the legitimacy of his political adversaries, misusing the security clearance process to do so undermines the people and institutions who keep the country safe.

Joel Rubin is the president of the Washington Strategy Group and a former deputy assistant secretary of state.

Go deeper

Cuomo asks New York AG and chief judge to choose "independent" investigator into sexual harassment claims

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a press conference on Feb. 24. Photo: Seth Wenig/pool/AFP via Getty Images

A special counselor to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a statement on Sunday asking the state's attorney general and chief judge to jointly pick an "independent and qualified lawyer in private practice without political affiliation" to investigate claims of sexual harassment against the governor.

The state of play: The statement is an about-face from Cuomo, who had previously selected a former judge close to a top aide to lead the investigation, the New York Times reported, a move that was widely criticized.

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.