President Donald Trump’s decision this past week to revoke the security clearances of former CIA Director John Brennan is unprecedented in American history, and represents a clear and present danger to our great Republic. Mr. Trump’s abuse of his Article II powers—in addition to doubling down on his threat to revoke the clearances of other national security officials–sets a dangerous precedent and is indicative of the actions of foreign tyrannical leaders.
It is no state secret that America’s Commander-in-Chief has long praised and courted attention from some of the world’s most authoritarian figures, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un.
Having once served as a democratization and political instability analyst within the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence, I have witnessed up close how despotic regimes use recriminations and other punitive measures to quell dissent and spread fear. That said, I believe there is no reasonable doubt following Mr. Trump’s interview with the Wall Street Journal that his decision to revoke Brennan’s clearances was retribution for the Director’s role in initiating the Russia investigation. Keep in mind the President originally claimed that he was “fulfilling his constitutional responsibility to protect the nation’s classified information.” This of course was a blatant lie, and represents Mr. Trump’s increasing willingness to corrupt the moral authority of his high office for petty revenge and personal gain.
The Founding Fathers in their infinite wisdom devised an ingenious system of checks and balances to limit the accumulation of power in any one of our three branches of government. In particular, they took extra precautions to guard against the tyranny of would-be autocrats who might rise to power through the Executive Office of the President.
However, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay back in 1787 could not have anticipated gerrymandered congressional districts, the 24-hour news cycle, the landmark Citizens United US Supreme Court decision, Russian troll factories and the weaponization of social media. These phenomena, in addition to countless others, have worked both directly and indirectly to foster the zero-sum, tribal discourse currently afflicting our national political enterprise. The Republican-led Congress, which appears to be either unable or unwilling to execute responsible oversight of the current administration, perhaps best exemplifies the nadir of what Alexis de Tocqueville once described as the “great American experiment.”
I am of the strong opinion that a healthy democracy would not have elected Donald Trump President of the United States. That said, it is paramount that the guardians of our nation’s laws and institutions—such as elected officials, thought leaders, journalists and the hundreds of thousands of patriots that comprise the US Intelligence Community—work in tandem to raise the alarm whenever this or any other administration unjustly administers executive authority.
I cherish the freedoms and opportunities this country has afforded me; and like Director Brennan, and other brave leaders from within the IC who have spoken out, I too refuse to standby and say nothing as this President brazenly attempts to turn our body politic into a banana republic.
Despite countless attempts on the part of Republicans to undermine the freeness and fairness of our elections, the mobilization of a common sense electorate represents America’s best new hope this upcoming November to deter the autocratic leanings of the 45th President.
Keith E. Noble, Ph.D., a former CIA Open Source Center Bureau Chief, led collection and analytical operations in more than 30 countries. Dr. Noble currently resides in Miami-Dade.
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