Congress to investigate if the FBI denied Ben Rhodes interim security clearance
In the waning days of the Obama administration, an issue has arisen that calls into question the integrity of the FBI and security clearance of one of Obama's top national security advisers.
It appears that the FBI refused to grant Ben Rhodes interim security clearance before the president took office in 2009. Since Rhodes is now privy to all government secrets, it raises the question of what the FBI had on Rhodes that forced them to initially deny the clearance, and why he was eventually granted access to top secret information.
Ben Rhodes, a White House deputy national security adviser who led the administration’s efforts to mislead Congress about the terms of the Iran nuclear agreement, is under scrutiny in the wake of disclosures he was declined interim clearance status by the FBI in 2008, when the administration was moving into the White House.
Since that time, Rhodes has emerged as a key adviser to President Obama and a major player in the administration’s efforts to create a self-described pro-Iran deal “echo chamber” to mislead Congress and Americans about the terms of the Iranian nuclear agreement.
Lawmakers are now concerned that Rhodes’ access to the top levels of government—including its diplomacy with Iran—is inappropriate due to the FBI’s concerns about his past.
“Recent reports indicate the FBI denied, or was going to deny, Ben Rhodes an interim security clearance during President Obama’s transition,” Reps. Trent Franks (R., Ariz.) and Jim Bridenstine (R., Okla.) wrote in a recent letter to FBI Director James Comey, according to a copy obtained by the Free Beacon.
“This previously unknown fact is extremely troubling and calls into question the integrity of the FBI’s protocols and the wisdom of Mr. Rhodes’ continued government employment,” the lawmakers wrote.
Individuals can be denied security clearance for a number of reasons, including a criminal record, history of drug use, or “questionable foreign ties or relationships.”
The latter possibility is raising concerns among lawmakers and veteran foreign policy insiders who say that Rhodes’ history of promoting diplomacy with Iran may have been the reason for his disqualification.
Emails released as part of a hack on Obama administration confidante John Podesta confirm that Rhodes was not able to pass preliminary background checks by the FBI in 2008.
“We agree that it would not be worth pushing for Benjamin Rhodes to receive interim status,” Obama transition team members wrote to Podesta in October 2008.
“For your information, out of the approximately 187 people who we have moved through the process Benjamin was the only person declined interim status,” the email said.
The FBI was to complete a full review into Rhodes after the transition. It remains unclear what they concluded.
Several possible explanations for why Rhodes was eventually cleared come to mind, including the idea that the Bureau caved into political pressure from the White House and agreed to a demand from President Obama that he be given the necessary clearances. It's also possible that new information came to light that eased the concerns of FBI vetters.
Should Rhodes's advocacy for Iran-U.S. détente be an automatic disqualifier for a security clearance? Some pro-Tehran groups are almost certainly in the pocket of the mullahs. Others, like Rhodes, are just naive fools. Perhaps the FBI was concerned with some of Rhodes's contacts who may have been considered Iranian agents.
Whatever the reason, Congress has a perfect right – even at this late date – to investigate. The integrity of the bureau and the vetting process for senior national security officials is more important than one man or one administration, and getting to the bottom of the issue is imperative.