Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta warned Tuesday that someone is “dropping the ball” on the security clearance process within the White House after it was revealed a number of White House staffers are working without full clearances.
“Somebody’s dropping the ball, that’s for sure, because these investigations should have been completed,” Panetta told CBS News.
“Somebody’s dropping the ball that’s for sure. These investigations should have been completed... I can’t believe that more pressure has not been brought on those involved to complete this and try to get everyone cleared” — Panetta pic.twitter.com/LOWkI5CI4l— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 13, 2018
The White House is facing growing scrutiny over its process for approving security clearances after Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary, resigned last week. Porter was accused by two of his former wives of domestic violence.
The women said they told the FBI of the abuse when the bureau conducted its background check of Porter.
Porter worked as White House staff secretary with an interim security clearance, and it was soon revealed that numerous White House staffers have also been working with interim clearances, including Jared Kushner, a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s son-in-law.
Panetta, who also served as White House chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton, said it’s unusual for the security clearance process to take as long as it has, especially since Trump has passed the one-year mark of being in office.
“Normally, because of the priority of getting security clearances to those who have to be involved with top secret and highly classified information, it usually is a priority that’s focused on,” he said. “I think the fact there are still a number of individuals that don’t have a full security clearance is a real problem and hopefully it’ll be dealt with.”
Leon Panetta on security clearances: “It usually is a priority that’s focused on. I think the fact there are still a number of individuals that don't have a full security clearance is a real problem.” pic.twitter.com/fzL4bQi4AT— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) February 13, 2018
Panetta said the blame for the prolonged process shouldn’t only be placed on White House chief of staff John Kelly, who he said “understands the importance” of completing the security clearance process.
“If you’re looking for where to place blame, I think everybody bears some responsibility here, not just the chief of staff,” he said. “It’s others who should be asking where is my security clearance and shouldn’t it be completed rather than standing back and allowing this interim security clearance to take effect. That just is a bad way to do business.”