Should the president have ultimate authority to decide who hears state secrets? | The Tylt

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Tricia Newbold, a security expert with 18 years experience in the White House, has come forward to lodge grave complaints about the current administration and its handling of security clearances. Newbold claims experts in the office declined to provide high security clearances for 25 people, only to have their decisions overturned by more senior officials. The president has sole authority to decide who receives security clearances and is therefore within his rights to have deputies provide them. But is he putting the nation's security at risk?

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Should the president have ultimate authority to decide who hears state secrets?
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Tricia Newbold, who worked under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, told Congress that her office had denied 25 total applications for high security clearances for reasons including “foreign influence, conflicts of interest, concerning personal conduct, financial problems, drug use and criminal conduct." According to the New York Times, Newbold said Carl Kline, the former White House personnel security chief and a political appointee, overturned his offices' decisions. 

In one case, she said that a senior White House official was denied a clearance after a background check turned up concerns about possible foreign influence; “employment outside or businesses external to what your position at the E.O.P. entails”; and the official’s personal conduct. “E.O.P.” refers to the executive office of the president.
Mr. Kline stepped in to reverse the decision, she said, writing in the relevant file that “the activities occurred before federal service” without addressing concerns raised by Ms. Newbold and another colleague.
In the case of the second senior White House official, Ms. Newbold told the committee that a specialist reviewing the clearance application wrote a 14-page memo detailing disqualifying concerns, including possible foreign influence. She said that Mr. Kline instructed her “do not touch” the case, and soon granted the official clearance.
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Newbold stated the concerns with security clearances were shared not only by members of her office. Per the Washington Post

In the case of one top White House official, described as “Official 1” in committee documents, Newbold said that she and another employee denied the official a security clearance after a background investigation revealed “significant disqualifying factors,” including foreign influence, outside business interests and personal conduct.
But Kline overruled their determination. In his decision, he “failed to address all of the disqualifying concerns listed by Ms. Newbold and the first-line adjudicator,” according to a committee summary of her response.
Instead, Kline merely note that Official 1’s activities “occurred prior to Federal service,” according to the panel.
NBC News previously reported that Kline overruled a decision by two career White House security specialists to deny Kushner a clearance.
When Official 1 applied for an even higher level of clearance, Newbold said that another agency contacted her to determine “how we rendered a favorable adjudication,” an inquiry she said reflected the agency’s “serious concerns.”
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According to security veterans, overturning recommendations from professionals is extremely unusual. While it is within the president's purview to grant security clearances, the chief executive typically defers to experts to avoid any indication of political bias. Per the HuffPost

Ned Price, a former CIA analyst who served as spokesman for the National Security Council under former President Barack Obama, said he was not aware of anything similar happening during his time in the White House.
“The process was sacrosanct in the sense that career officials had the final say. There was a recognition that even the appearance of political pressure could raise concerns,” Price said. “But here’s the other difference: senior White House officials in the Obama era tended to be individuals who had served at high levels of career service or who had previously served in senior appointed positions. This administration is rather unique in the number of officials who have never held positions of public trust — or who haven’t done so in many years.”
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However, members of the White House, notably Jared Kushner, have pushed back against the allegations. Kushner's security clearance has long been scrutinized by outside watchdogs and while he is not named in Newbold's testimony, many believe he is one of the 25 people she is describing. After the allegations became public, the Washington Post reports Kushner granted an interview with Fox News to defend the White House's practices. 

Kushner, who Trump ultimately demanded be granted a permanent top-secret clearance despite concerns of intelligence officials, told Fox host Laura Ingraham that he “can’t comment for the White House’s process.”
“But I can say over the last two years that I’ve been here, I’ve been accused of all different types of things and all of those things have turned out to be false,” he added. “We’ve had a lot of crazy accusations, like that we colluded with Russia.”
...Kushner laughed and said: “Look, I can say that in the White House I work with some phenomenal people and I think over the last two years the president’s done a phenomenal job of identifying what are our national security priorities. He’s had a great team in place that are helping implement it, and I hope I’ve played a good part in pushing those objectives forward.”
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Republican members of the House Oversight Committee, which heard Newbold's testimony, were quick to decry the investigation as overreach. Per Politico

In a response memo, Republicans on the Oversight Committee complained that Democrats took Newbold's interview out of context and mischaracterized her knowledge of the reasons top officials overruled her security clearance decisions. They also argued that Newbold's testimony was "overblown" because only a handful of security clearance applications she denied were for “very serious reasons.”
“If Kline overturned only—at most—five clearance adjudications with very serious concerns out of five thousand, Ms. Newbold’s concerns seem overblown,” Republican aides wrote in their memo.
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Kushner claims he had been thoroughly vetted and had complete faith in the decisions made. 

And on Monday evening, he implied that his business dealings had contributed to the lengthiness of the vetting process.
"When I came to Washington, I had a very successful business career," he told host Laura Ingraham. "I had extensive holdings. I disclosed all of my holdings for the Office of Government Ethics, and what I did with them is they told me what to divest, what to keep, what rules to follow. We followed all that."

Although, as CBS News reports, the public has long been aware of the many issues raised in Kushner's own application for security clearance. 

However, as Major Garrett reported in July 2017, Kushner initially had to update a federal disclosure form needed to obtain a security clearance three times and added more than 100 names of foreign contacts through the updates after initially providing none at all. His first form had no foreign names on it even though people applying for a security clearance need to list any contact with foreign governments. At the time, Kushner's team said it was prematurely sent.
FINAL RESULTS
Should the president have ultimate authority to decide who hears state secrets?
#TrustPresJudgment
A festive crown for the winner
#ProtectStateSecrets