No Clearance / No Security by Craig Fuller

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Consider how challenging it is to know at this moment just what the intentions of leaders in the government of the United States are across a range of issues from national security and defense to health care, trade, and energy. What do leaders intend to do about these issues? What is likely to happen that will affect us?

Hard to know, right? And, yet, we live in the most open and transparent country on the planet.

So, when we ask the intelligence community to understand the motivations and probable actions of our adversaries and our allies, always in less open and sometimes hostile environments, in order to accurately inform our US decision makers, shouldn’t we understand that this is an extremely difficult mission.

It’s not like there is no information. But, we don’t call it the “information community.” We call it the intelligence community because we require thousands of people to assess information from many sources, often clandestine, for the purpose of presenting carefully considered intelligence.

One of the most interesting aspects of my job many years ago in the White House was to read and receive the President’s Daily Intelligence Briefing from a senior CIA official. I cannot imagine a more enlightening daily dose of reality than this document and the accompanying oral briefing. Knowledge built over time is invaluable to staff and decision makers who take an oath to make choices that will protect the nation.

Much is being made of security clearances these days. While some high profile people now lack the highest clearances, the problem goes far beyond those in the headlines. It has been suggested that over 100 people inside the White House lack full clearances.

Here is the reality: developing the very best and most useful intelligence requires that those at the highest levels of government can be trusted with secrets. And, not only the actual intelligence provided; but, also the fact that we have it along with any knowledge of the means by which we gained it. The failure to act with discretion and in accordance with very strict laws, puts our own highly trained and vulnerable people at risk. The failure also discourages the very sources we rely upon from sharing information.

So, back to the people without full clearances….

There are several levels of security clearance, but the information flowing into the President and his top staff requires the highest clearances.

When someone lacks a clearance, people with the sensitive information do not know why. Thus, a clearance problem is within a range of issues that could mean placing into the hands of a non-cleared individual something they might inappropriately disclose.

For this reason, someone in possession of classified information in not supposed to knowingly provide it to an individual without proper clearances because being trusted with such information requires that you protect it.

It’s a very important principle.

Think about the phrase, “….now, don’t let anyone know that I know this, but…..”

If our nation’s leaders are going to benefit from having the most sophisticated intelligence gathering capabilities available to them for the purpose of making the best decisions possible, then they need 100% compliance with the laws designed to protect the secrets – no exceptions.


Craig Fuller served four years in the White House as assistant to President Reagan for Cabinet Affairs, followed by four years as chief of staff to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Having been engaged in five presidential campaigns and run public affairs firms and associations in Washington, D.C., he now resides on the Eastern Shore with his wife Karen.

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Letters to Editor

  1. Patrick Byrne says:

    Agree completely with your comments. However, I would draw one final conclusion that clearances are being “slow walked” thru the process. The longer it takes the more difficult day to day management of the White House. Unfortunately, tax payers are supporting the “slow walk” and individuals without a full clearance.

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