Former CIA directors and another half dozen of America’s most senior spies have issued an unprecedented condemnation of President Donald Trump, after his decision to blacklist their colleague John Brennan.
In a statement, ex-CIA bosses appointed by Republican and Democratic presidents – including Robert Gates, George Tenet, Porter Goss, Leon Panetta and David Petraeus – denounced Trump’s decision to strip Brennan of his security clearance.
“The president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances – and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” the statement read.
Describing Trump’s move as “inappropriate and deeply regrettable,” they insisted “we have never before seen the approval or removal of security clearances used as a political tool, as was done in this case.”
Two of those who signed the statement – former director of national intelligence James Clapper and former CIA director Michael Hayden – have been cited by Trump as on a list of people who could lose their clearance.
Former officials often retain security clearance after leaving office to allow their successors to consult them on issues of the day.
After the White House said Brennan – a notable Trump critic – had been stripped of clearance due to his “erratic” behaviour, Trump admitted it was because of his criticism and comments on the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.
The president’s actions have been widely condemned, including by respected former admiral William McRaven, the commander of the US Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
“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,” he said.
Meanwhile, most of Trump’s Republican allies have defended the move or refused to condemn it publicly.