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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Technology

3D printing's next act: big metal objects

Chief Scientist Andy Bayramian makes modifications to the laser system on Seurat's 3D metal printer. Photo courtesy of Seurat Technologies.

A new metal 3D printing technology could revolutionize the way large industrial products like planes and cars are made, reducing the cost and carbon footprint of mass manufacturing.

Why it matters: 3D printing — also called additive manufacturing — has been used since the 1980s to make small plastic parts and prototypes. Metal printing is newer, and the challenge has been figuring out how to make things like large car parts faster and cheaper than traditional methods.

Updated 4 hours ago - Technology

Mayors see cryptocurrency as a way to address income inequality

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

At the U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting in D.C. this week, there's buzz around the idea of giving cryptocurrency accounts to low-income people.

Why it matters: Cities have been experimenting with newfangled ways to address income inequality — like guaranteed income programs — and the latest wave of trials could involve paying benefits or dividends in bitcoin, stablecoin or other digital currencies.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February
  2. Vaccines: Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker