A major donor to the Clinton Foundation was granted a top security clearance in order to serve on a major State Department intelligence board in 2011, despite lacking the necessary experience, according recently released emails.
Rajiv Fernando, a prolific fundraiser for Democratic candidates, was appointed a seat on the International Security Advisory Board (ISAB), a panel that consists of high ranking foreign policy advisors and security experts. However, he resigned after public scrutiny of his credentials.
State Department staff were pressured to obtain a security clearance for Fernando in order to expedite his position on the board, according to emails obtained by the conservative watchdog group Citizens United.
Pushing the Security Clearance Process
When ABC News requested a copy of Fernando’s resume from the State Department, agency officials were asked to “stall” the inquiry in order to protect Clinton’s reputation, according to emails.
“I have spoken to [State Department official and ISAB Executive Director Richard Hartman] privately, and it appears there is much more to this story that we’re unaware of,” wrote Jamie Mannina, the press aide who handled the ABC News request, in an email. “We must protect the Secretary’s and Under Secretary’s name, as well as the integrity of the Board… As you can see from the attached, it’s natural to ask how he got onto the board when compared to the rest of the esteemed list of members.”
As a member of the ISAB, Fernando had a Top Secret security clearance, which allowed him to access highly sensitive information. Fernando, a Chicago securities trader who specialized in electronic investing, joined a group of nuclear scientists, former cabinet secretaries and members of Congress in order to advise Hillary Clinton on the use of tactical nuclear weapons and other arms control issues. He resigned from the board soon after his credentials were questioned by the press.
Fernando is currently listed on the Clinton Campaign website as having given between $1 million and $5 million to the foundation. In July, he hosted a private fundraiser at his home where supporters paid $2700 per ticket.
Clinton’s traveling press secretary Nick Merrill issued a statement about the the fiasco:
“This was an unpaid, volunteer advisory board, and one of several foreign policy-focused organizations that he was involved with. As the State Department itself has said, the ISAB charter calls for a diverse set of experiences for its members. That’s all there is to it.”
Security clearance background investigators have called out the incident, asking how a process that is already bogged down with months of delays could have been ‘expedited’ in the first place.