Rob Porter is a national security scandal, too
A morally compromised White House staffer may have had access to America’s top secrets
[Read the full article at Politico]
The allegations against Rob Porter, the recently departed White House staff secretary, are morally disturbing. Multiple ex-wives have accused him of abusive behavior, and while he disputes those accusations, the FBI found them credible enough to deny him a security clearance—and there are pictures of one of his exes with a black eye that she claims was delivered by him.
For White House and the National Security Council staff veterans, the revelation that Porter did not have a full security clearance raises a number of real questions that must be answered. Those questions speak directly to the safety of America’s most sensitive intelligence officers and most dangerous operations.
Having worked at the White House—including both at the National Security Council and alongside the staff secretary—I believe Porter-gate has all the markings either of a very high security breach or a highly unusual staff structure. It also raises real questions about how Trump White House staff under both Reince Priebus and John Kelly managed sensitive information, and what both of them knew about the allegations against Porter and when they knew it.
As staff secretary, Porter held one of the most important, and under-appreciated, positions at the White House. The staff secretary normally is responsible for managing all information that flows to the president—usually including the secrets known only to a small handful of people—principally, President Trump and Chiefs of Staff Priebus and Kelly, and National Security Advisers Michael Flynn and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster.
News reports indicate that Porter was granted an “interim security clearance.” That certification is, indeed, quite common in the early days of an administration. Likewise, almost any new government employee who comes in contact with classified information—Secret, Top-Secret, and Top-Secret/Code Word intelligence—goes through this “interim” phase.
If an employee receives an interim security clearance, he or she is allowed by law to serve in positions designated “National Security/ Non-Critical Sensitive” or “National Security/Critical Sensitive.” They cannot, however, be given a “Special Sensitive” job, which requires a different level of clearance: Top Secret/Special Compartmentalized Information—also known as TS/SCI or TS/CodeWord.
Only employees with TS/SCI or CodeWord clearance can see our government’s most important secrets. Typically, the staff secretary is one of those very few people. One of the most important.
What does that mean?