New President, new challenges. According to press reports, the White House put in the paperwork for Ivanka Trump to be considered for a US Government security clearance. Putting aside the efficacy of whether or not the President’s daughter should or should not serve as an uncompensated advisor to the President, let’s look at the mechanics and our prior discussion on this topic.
In November 2016, we wrote of how the then president-elect leaned on his children and son-in-law as his most trusted counsel and the likelihood they would be exposed to classified information during the transition process. Since then, we have seen Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law take on his role, which did indeed require his being processed for a security clearance.
Will Ivanka Trump’s situation be different than that of her husband? Probably not. The White House office of personnel, which is the Cognizant Security Agency (CSA) has determined that in order for Ivanka to perform her advisory duties to the President she needs to be made privy to classified materials. Up to now, we can only speculate how the White House has handled her exposure to classified materials, but if past practice holds true, she most likely signed a secrecy agreement that she would keep the secrets, secret.
What are the mechanics for Ivanka’s security clearance?
First, as noted above, the White House makes the case as to why the role requires the individual to have access to classified materials. According to ABC News:
Ivanka Trump will not be considered a federal employee and will not draw a salary, but will receive a government-issued communications device, in addition to her office, “to protect government records and any information to which she may have access,” according to senior White House officials and sources close to her. Her clearance will allow her to receive classified information.
While Politico carries Ivanka’s own description of her duties:
“I will continue to offer my father my candid advice and counsel, as I have for my entire life,” Trump said in a statement. “While there is no modern precedent for an adult child of the president, I will voluntarily follow all of the ethics rules placed on government employees.”
Thus with the “need-to-know” rationalized and solidified within the White House. Ivanka submits the paperwork just like every other US citizen who is applying for a security clearance. The SF-86 is processed, an interim clearance is provided, which may be sufficient for her to be given the government-issued communications device, and be exposed to classified information. One may imagine the length of her SF-86 addendums on foreign travel and foreign contacts will be eye-boggling. The background check will be conducted, it will, no doubt be lengthy. Once completed, the CSA, makes their adjudication.
Can she really be eligible for a security clearance?
Yes. She is a US Citizen, she is over 18 years of age. The White House has determined her need-to-know in order to perform her duties as advisor to the President of the United States. She is an eligible candidate to be considered for a security clearance. As frequently discussed at ClearanceJobs, almost any issue – including foreign business ties – can be mitigated by a responsible party willing to put in the effort.