Monday, March 19, 2007

Security Clearance and Valerie Plame

Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, has it just exactly right in his letter to the White House regarding last week's testimony from James Knodell, the White House Security Director. Regardless of whether or not Karl Rove or others involved with the leaking of the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame committed crimes -- though Rove is about as likely to be innocent as OJ -- there's no way under the sun that they should still have security clearances.

Us regular folks can have our clearances pulled for any reason or no reason at all. When I worked for the Air Force's National Air Intelligence Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, I had a colleague who had her clearance held up for almost a year because she'd seen a therapist for a while. This was Secret-level clearance, not the super-duper Top Secret clearance without restrictions I'm sure Rove has, and we worked in a program where the classified information we worked with was old, like over twenty years old, and was of no value to anyone. No one would have payed for it cared about it. Almost all of it really should have been declassified long before we saw it.

And still we got to go through all kinds of training courses where we were exorted to be careful with information, watch who we dealt with, and of course, the harsh penalties to violating the law and revealing any information. We were let know that clearance is a privilege, not a right, and that it could and would be pulled at any time for even the appearance of a question about our trustworthiness.

I would have been put in jail for revealing any of the useless information I worked with. Rove and his cohorts haven't even lost their clearances for disclosing the identity of a covert operative and destroying whole intelligence networks she was involved in.

I know that the big fish play by different rules than the rest of us. But the fact that no one has even lost his or her clearance on account of this just makes a mockery of the whole practice of protecting classified information. The public trust placed in someone like Rove with access to a whole array of information that could compromise US national security if revealed is orders of magnitude greater than that placed in me or my co-worker. And the standards by which the big fish are judged should be stricter, if anything, in this regard.

Someone who is a proven security risk -- someone who has already compromised a covert CIA operative to the press -- being allowed to keep his clearance is a huge threat to national security and should not be allowed to stand.


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