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    08.17.18 In a Washington Post Op-Ed, Professor Heidi Gilchrist Warns of the Risks of Politicizing Security Clearances
    Professor Heidi Gilchrist

    In an op-ed in The Washington Post, Professor Heidi Gilchrist, a former CIA analyst and expert on national security issues, raised concerns over politicization of security clearances in the wake of news that President Donald Trump had revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, a move apparently motivated by personal retribution.

    “As a former CIA analyst and now a law professor who studies national security, I find the reasons the White House gave for the move deeply alarming,” wrote Gilchrist, whose article “Security Clearance Conundrum: The Need For Reform And Judicial Review,” appeared in the University of Richmond Law Review. “Getting good intelligence assessments requires different voices and frank assessments, not just people who agree with and support whatever the president says.”

    Gilchrist noted that while the executive branch has almost absolute authority for making security clearance decisions and generally they are not judicially reviewable, the U.S. Supreme Court has left a small opening for cases in which there is a “colorable constitutional claim,” meaning an individual’s constitutional rights have been denied. The argument has never been used successfully, but Gilchrist believes that Brennan, along with other past officials whose clearances have been threatened by the administration, might have legitimate claims based upon their First Amendment right to criticize the president.

    “Cutting off former high-ranking government officials from classified information sends a chilling message to current rank-and-file intelligence professionals,” wrote Gilchrist. “That message, coming through quite clearly from the White House, is that dissent is not welcome.”

    According to Gilchrist, the impact of losing a security clearance is deep for intelligence analysts, but it also has a broader effect on the CIA’s ability to recruit talent—particularly diverse talent, which is “one of the things that makes the United States intelligence services so unique and adept.”

    Gilchrist joined the Law School’s legal writing faculty in fall 2015. Her scholarship focuses on national security law issues and the intersection of national security with civil rights and human rights law. In February 2017, Gilchrist was appointed to the Fulbright Specialist roster making her eligible for an international teaching grant through the J. William Fulbright Scholars Program. Previously, she served in the federal government as a national security analyst and subsequently as a liaison to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in New York City.

    Read the op-ed here