It is not surprising that an authoritarian such as President Trump would consider revoking the security clearance of former federal officials who criticize him [“President threatens security privileges,” front page, July 24]. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) revealed the shallowness of his supposed libertarian principles when he urged Mr. Trump to take that step. It probably would be unconstitutional.
The president has broad power to grant and revoke security clearance, but such blatant retaliation for speech that pricks the president’s pride probably would exceed the limits of that power. The Supreme Court has said, “A law found to discriminate based on viewpoint is an ‘egregious form of content discrimination,’ which is ’presumptively unconstitutional.’ ” But for their expression of views critical of Mr. Trump, those former officials would retain their clearances just as any other national security officer who has recently left the government.
David A. Drachsler, Alexandria
When the next national security crisis happens, I want our president and his security team to tap the wisdom and experience of people who have been there — people like former National Security Agency director Michael Hayden, former CIA director John Brennan, former director of national intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. and former national security adviser Susan E. Rice. Unfortunately, that won’t happen if President Trump makes good on his threats to strip security clearances from some of our country’s leading security voices because they have publicly disagreed with him. These are decorated and dedicated patriots who spent entire careers speaking truth to power. I’ve said the same about Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, a Trump appointee, who currently enables me to sleep at night.
Mr. Clapper has said he thinks our system of “three coequal branches of government and a built-in system of checks and balances [is] under assault and eroding.” These are people with a lifetime of expertise who are taking a stand because Mr. Trump is dangerous to our way of life.
I believe Mr. Trump’s threat was part of his pattern of distracting and deflecting. In the days since his disastrous joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, he has talked about the National Football League, Iran and security clearances, but not Helsinki.
Good leaders can take criticism and even welcome dissension. Revoking security clearances from top security experts does not make us safer.
C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Washington
The writer, a Democrat from Maryland,
is a former ranking member on the
House Intelligence Committee.