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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

Salesforce rolls the dice on Slack

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Salesforce's likely acquisition of workplace messaging service Slack — not yet a done deal but widely anticipated to be announced Tuesday afternoon — represents a big gamble for everyone involved.

For Slack, challenged by competition from Microsoft, the bet is that a deeper-pocketed owner like Salesforce, with wide experience selling into large companies, will help the bottom line.

FBI stats show border cities are among the safest

Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation; Note: This table includes the eight largest communities on the U.S.-Mexico border and eight other U.S. cities similar in population size and demographics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

U.S. communities along the Mexico border are among the safest in America, with some border cities holding crime rates well below the national average, FBI statistics show.

Why it matters: The latest crime data collected by the FBI from 2019 contradicts the narrative by President Trump and others that the U.S.-Mexico border is a "lawless" region suffering from violence and mayhem.

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
1 hour ago - Science

The rise of military space powers

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Nations around the world are shoring up their defensive and offensive capabilities in space — for today's wars and tomorrow's.

Why it matters: Using space as a warfighting domain opens up new avenues for technologically advanced nations to dominate their enemies. But it can also make those countries more vulnerable to attack in novel ways.