Secrecy News

SSCI Warns Against Clearances for Ex-Convicts

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence endorsed a statutory prohibition that prevents the Department of Defense from granting security clearances to former convicts who have served a year or more in jail, individuals who are mentally incompetent, are drug addicts, or have been dishonorably discharged from the military.

The Pentagon had requested a repeal of that provision, first enacted in 2000, and the request was approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“The [Intelligence] Committee understands DoD’s desire to have more flexibility to give clearances to otherwise qualified individuals who are currently barred from receiving or renewing their security clearances.”

“Because of the extremely sensitive nature of DoD’s military and intelligence activities, however, the Committee is concerned that a blanket repeal of section 986 could lead to unintended compromises or mishandling of classified information. Further, the Committee believes that the waiver authority that is currently provided in section 986 is sufficient to give DoD the flexibility and discretion it needs in handling cases involving convictions or dishonorable discharges.”

In a dissenting view (favoring the Pentagon proposal to repeal), Committee Chairman Rockefeller and Senators Wyden and Feingold said they had “no reason to question the adequacy of the security clearance process established under presidential order, nor to question the joint assessment of DoD and the Armed Services Committee that national security can be protected without this one DoD-specific statute.”

See the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act, Senate Report 110-125, June 29.

The dispute was first reported in “Ex-convicts and addicts may get DoD clearance” by Elana Schor and Roxana Tiron, The Hill, July 10.

Writing in the Danger Room blog, Sharon Weinberger correctly noted that someone like Scooter Libby (mentioned by me in The Hill article) would not technically be subject to the statutory prohibition since he is not going to spend a year or more in jail.

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