White House clearance procedure tightened

Pauline Gross
February 18, 2018

The Washington Post reports that Kushner, whose portfolio encompasses issues ranging from the Middle East peace process to modernizing the federal government's use of technology, has put in more requests for USA intelligence information than any White House staffer not working for the National Security Council.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, under fire over the White House's handling of domestic abuse allegations against a senior aide, ordered an overhaul of the security clearance process for current and incoming top administration officials.

In a five-page memo distributed Friday afternoon to White House staff, Mr. Kelly suggested that there were serious shortcomings with the system for vetting top-level officials with access to the United States' most closely guarded secrets.

Kelly's memo on future clearance practices is addressed to White House Counsel Don McGahn, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Security Advisor H.R.McMaster, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Joe Hagin.

The Washington Post first obtained the memo. Porter during their marriages.

Yet, 13 months later, Porter still had interim clearance as the authorities continued to evaluate what the White House now says are "credible" and "true" allegations of domestic abuse. Porter was allowed to remain in one of the most sensitive posts there despite the F.B.I.'s discovery of the abuse allegations months ago.

White House Chief of Staff John Kelly attends a meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House on February 12, 2018 in Washington, DC.

McGahn was apprised of at least some of the accusations about Porter at least four times, including as early as January 2017, according to White House officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

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Have a goal of receiving a briefing about any "significant derogatory information about senior staff" within 48 hours of discovering it.

'We should - and in the future, must -- do better'. The staff secretary, who had access to classified documents delivered to the president, maintained his interim clearance until he resigned last week.

Beyond addressing processes that he suggested were at fault for allowing Porter to remain as a senior aide to the President, Kelly said he also plans to work with the attorney general, Federal Bureau of Investigation director, director of national intelligence, defense secretary and CIA director to "streamline, harmonize and modernize standards across the executive branch" - citing a larger problem.

The Porter saga has also raised serious questions about how the White House handles security clearances.

Trump has complained to confidants that Kelly let the scandal spin out of control and that the constantly shifting narratives made the White House - and, by extension, Trump himself - look amateurish and incompetent, according to one person familiar with the discussions but not authorized to talk about them publicly.

Kelly also said he has already ended the granting of new interim security clearances, absent any "extraordinary circumstances" with his "explicit approval".

The White House has struggled to explain its handling of the Porter matter, offering several versions of events in recent days.

Kelly goes on to say that office, referred to as "PSO", needs major changes to reduce redundancies and bottlenecks. But Kelly writes he is still not sure whether this is achievable. "They have offered to assist us with reviewing and improving our protocols, and we have accepted their assistance".

Other reports by GizPress

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