Former CIA Director John Brennan doesn’t know if the has a security clearance or not. All I can say is, “Welcome to our world, Mr. Director.”
Trump Said Brennan’s Security Clearance Was Being Revoked
Last month, the White House announced that President Donald Trump was revoking Brennan’s clearance. “Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan,” the president wrote, “are now outweighed by the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”
As I said at the time, this was not an illogical decision on the president’s part. Brennan has made a new career out of television punditry. As ClearanceJobs contributor and retired CIA officer Christopher Burgess wrote, “Brennan’s access to classified information provides him with a nuanced view of world events, specifically those dealing with national security.”
But as I also said, there are procedures for making the revocation happen that the government must follow, so it makes at least some sense that Brennan has not heard from anyone just yet. Last week, I wrote, “The closing to Trump’s statement read, ‘It is for the foregoing reasons that I have exercised my Constitutional authority to deny Mr. Brennan access to classified information, and I will direct appropriate staff of the National Security Council to make the necessary arrangements with the appropriate agencies to implement this determination.’ [emphasis added].”
And those “necessary arrangements” take time.
A Familiar Refrain: The Paperwork is delayed
On Tuesday, a White House official told the Washington Post that the paperwork formally revoking Brennan’s clearance was “delayed.” The official did not elaborate further. This delay is likely the result of lawyers arguing back and forth over whether to revoke Brennan’s clearance altogether, or just revoke the “kneed to know” waiver issued under Executive Order 13526.
Regardless, Brennan now understands the angst that every low-level government employee and contractor feels on a daily basis. Brennan is waiting to find out whether or not he still holds his clearance. But so do countless government employees and contractors every day.
Brennan’s Problem isn’t unique
One of the most frequent questions asked of ClearanceJobs is “How do I know if I still have my clearance?” My snarky answer is: If your supervisor doesn’t show up at your desk with a security officer in tow – and ask you to leave the facility immediately – you still have your clearance.
It takes more than a year to process a new security clearance request. There is a backlog of more than 700,000 clearance requests waiting to be processed. The average time required to complete and adjudicate a new Top Secret clearance request is 543 days. Adjudication (the evaluation that follows the investigation) averages just 20 days. But for those with existing Top Secret clearances who are going through their periodic reinvestigation, the total processing time averages 697 days, with adjudication taking an average of 93 days.
It’s unclear if that discrepancy is due to added scrutiny or a lack of manpower, but the upshot is clear: queen bee John Brennan is in the same position as we worker bees who keep the hive running. Unless you are on good terms with your facilities security officer who is willing to look in the system, you simply have no way of knowing where you stand until you get your final determination.
It’s maddening, but it’s par for the course. So welcome to the club, Mr. Brennan.