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November 14, 2018

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EDITORIAL:

By toying with clearances, Trump shows disregard for national security

For showing President Donald Trump what real patriotism looks like, and for reminding us all that the light of American values is glowing as brightly as ever, here’s a salute to William H. McRaven.

In asking Trump last week to revoke his security clearance — an act of protest against Trump pulling former CIA chief John Brennan’s clearance — McRaven joined a long line of Americans who have stood up to Trump in defense of our democracy.

The retired admiral’s bona fides as an American patriot had already been well established, through a service record that included overseeing the 2011 mission to kill Osama bin Laden.

In his open letter to Trump in The Washington Post, McRaven showed that his role of protector had extended into his retirement.

“Former CIA director John Brennan, whose security clearance you revoked on Wednesday, is one of the finest public servants I have ever known. Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him,” McRaven wrote.

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”

McRaven went on to write a witheringly accurate assessment of Trump’s performance, saying the president had “embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

“If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken,” McRaven said. “The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.”

Bravo, admiral.

Keep in mind, this wasn’t simply a political statement. As McRaven knows, Trump’s decision to yank the clearances of Brennan and 12 other individuals could mean real harm to Americans.

That’s because security officials, for obvious reasons, value the experience and aptitude of former leaders like Brennan and McRaven, and often seek out their input. Therefore, keeping our best, brightest and most experienced on the outside runs counter to our national security.

Then there’s the nature of Trump’s actions, which clearly are motivated not by a desire to improve security but to lash back against political opponents.

In a statement protesting Trump, a group of 12 former top intelligence officials hit the nail on the head in calling the revocations “an attempt to stifle free speech.” Since that statement was issued, more than 175 officials have signed on to a new version warning that “the country will be weakened if there is a political litmus test applied” before expert former officials are allowed to voice their views, Reuters reported Monday.

Meanwhile, Brennan has indicated he was considering taking Trump to court over his clearance, which prompted shows of support from other patriotic Americans — in this case, attorneys who specialize in security clearance cases.

“There’s a ton of us who would do it pro bono,” said one of the attorneys, Mark Zaid, to the Post.

Trump, predictably, reacted with taunting and bluster. He tweeted that he welcomed a suit from Brennan, whom he called “the worst CIA Director in our country’s history.”

“It will then be very easy to get all of his records, texts, emails and documents to show not only the poor job he did, but how he was involved with the Mueller Rigged Witch Hunt. He won’t sue!” Trump’s tweet read.

With that, Trump once again revealed that he places his self-interests before the national interest or policy priority. In his view, the government is there to serve his interests, nothing more.

But thanks to the officials who are speaking out in support of Brennan — heroes like McRaven — what’s clear is that Americans still have leaders standing up for them in Washington.