White House reforms security clearances to address scandal
WASHINGTON, USA – White House Chief of Staff John Kelly has ordered changes to the way staff gain access to America's most closely guarded secrets, after a top aide worked for months without full clearance.
Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, proposed a series of tweaks intended to limit temporary security clearances, but which also seemed designed to draw a line under the Rob Porter scandal.
The aide – who had daily access to the Oval Office and handled top secret documents – resigned in disgrace this month after allegations he beat both his former wives.
For months the FBI knew about the allegations and notified the White House – but he was still granted access to state secrets and sensitive meetings.
Porter's alleged history could have made him a target of blackmail.
Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn have come under withering criticism for their handling of the case.
"We should – and in the future, must – do better," Kelly wrote in a memo to staff. "Recent events have exposed some remaining shortcomings."
The White House gave shifting and often misleading accounts of when top officials learned of the allegations, and a congressional committee is investigating the matter.
Among the changes that Kelly has recommended are efforts to prioritize the most urgent cases and improve information sharing between the FBI and the White House.
The move looked to potentially threaten the position of President Donald Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner, who has interim clearance.
But in a statement to Agence France-Presse, his lawyer said "no concerns" had been raised about Kushner's ongoing clearance application.
"My inquiries to those involved again have confirmed that there are a dozen or more people at Mr. Kushner's level whose process is delayed, that it is not uncommon for this process to take this long in a new administration," said Abbe Lowell.
"The new policy announced by General Kelly will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President," he added. – Rappler.com