Stephen Bannon, President Trump's fired chief strategist, has now returned to Breitbart News, the company he used to run. He described his exit from the White House as a great weight lifted off him. "I've got my hands back on my weapons," he said, promising to use his job to go to "war" for Trump's agenda.
Enter critics who have raised the question about whether use of the information Bannon gathered on the job would be a violation of Bannon's top secret security clearance. The Hill took the question to a national security lawyer.
"People with Top Secret clearances are bound by a non-disclosure agreement for life," said Bradley Moss, a partner at the Law Office of Mark Zaid specializing in national security and security clearance law. "Any time Breitbart now prints classified information they might now be required to clear it with the government," according to Moss.
That may be true. Bannon must protect and withhold what he is legally bound to withhold and must be very careful about using inside information or reporting on meetings and conversations in which he was a participant.
The press hypocrisy, however, comes in just how often journalists ignore such violations. Consider former Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking on a panel with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif earlier this summer at the Oslo Security Forum. At the June gathering, Kerry declared, "Leaders in the region were saying to me personally, and to the president, President Obama, ‘You should bomb these guys — that's the only way to resolve this issue.'"
Conversations between foreign leaders and the president are among the most highly classified material (which is why the leaking of those conversations between Trump and world leaders is a scandal). Nor does Kerry have the ability to declassify his own conversations; those that occurred in his capacity as secretary of state remain classified for a decade at least, and often more. That Kerry violated his oaths so openly and in a way guaranteed to feed Iranian propaganda and undercut U.S. allies appears to be a crime, one for which he should lose any clearance which he still holds, pay a fine, or worse.
The New York Times may worry about Bannon, but there is a deep irony when they appear more concerned about theoretical future crimes by Republicans than actual, open, and demonstrable instances when prominent Democrats have done the same thing.
Preserving American secrets is important, and oaths sworn as part of the security clearance process should mean something. Neither partisan affiliation nor rank should be a factor in adjudicating violations.
Michael Rubin (@Mrubin1971) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former Pentagon official.
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