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12 fmr. CIA directors, deputies release statement against Trump for pulling Brennan’s security clearance

President Barack Obama listens to the remarks of John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, his nominee for Director of the CIA, during the announcement in the East Room of the White House, Jan. 7, 2013. The President also announced former Senator Chuck Hagel, second from left, as his nominee for Secretary of Defense. Joining them are departing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left. (Pete Souza/White House)
August 17, 2018

After President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, critics of the President continue to challenge the decision and voice support for Brennan.

Numerous former intelligence officials have released a joint letter in support of Brennan, calling the President’s decision to strip the security clearance “inappropriate” and “deeply regrettable,” according to a CBS News report late Thursday.

The letter was signed by 13 former officials — 12 of directors and deputy directors of the CIA, and one national intelligence director.

“We feel compelled to respond in the wake of the ill-considered and unprecedented remarks and actions by the White House,” the officials wrote. “We know John to be an enormously talented, capable and patriotic individual who devoted his entire adult life to the service of this nation.”

The officials consist of: “former Directors of Central Intelligence Robert Gates, William Webster, George Tenet and Porter Goss; former CIA directors Gen. Michael Hayden, Leon Panetta and Gen. David Petraeus; former director of national intelligence James Clapper; and former deputy CIA directors John McLaughlin, Stephen Kappes, Avril Haines, David Cohen and Michael Morell, who is also a CBS News senior national security contributor.”

Through a statement read by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders on Wednesday, President Trump proclaimed his decision to revoke Brennan’s security clearance over “the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior” and “a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility.”

Brennan, who is a vocal critic of President Trump, became a contributor and analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, using his television presence to spread his harsh criticisms against the President. Brennan is accused of leaking information and abusing his security clearance to access classified information for political and financial benefit.

That has not stopped the support for Brennan since Wednesday’s announcement, however.

In their letter, the officials referred to claims of Brennan’s misconduct as “baseless” and accused President Trump of stripping the security clearance as “an attempt to stifle free speech.”

“You don’t have to agree with what John Brennan says (and … not all of us do) to agree with his right to say it, subject to his obligation to protect classified information,” the letter said.

Additionally, retired Navy Admiral William H. McRaven penned an open letter in The Washington Post in which he voiced his support for Brennan, accompanied by criticism of the president.

In the letter titled, “Revoke my security clearance, too, Mr. President,” McRaven referred to Brennan as “one of the finest public servants I have ever known.” He went on to praise Brennan’s character and honesty, calling him “a man of unparalleled integrity.”

“Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency,” McRaven wrote, addressing President Trump.

He continued by waging harsh criticism toward the President, saying: “Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.”

“The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be,” McRaven closed in warning.

While it is common for former intelligence officials to retain their security clearances to consult with their successors and other officials, it is also at the President’s discretion to permit the continuation of security clearances for former officials.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said last week: “The President has the ultimate authority to decide who holds a security clearance.”