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From top secret to secret: What Kushner's clearance downgrade means

President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was among those White House officials to see their security clear...

Posted: Feb 28, 2018 12:06 PM
Updated: Feb 28, 2018 12:06 PM

President Donald Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was among those White House officials to see their security clearances downgraded, a potentially significant setback for a senior White House adviser.

The change came as sources told CNN that White House chief of staff John Kelly moved to downgrade temporary clearances for top White House staffers as concerns about overreliance on interim security clearances boiled over after staff secretary Rob Porter's resignation following domestic abuse allegations earlier this month. Porter has denied the allegations.

The gulf between secret and top secret clearance is significant, and the move would cut back on what information Kushner can access, meaning the aide who until recently had access to some of the nation's most closely guarded intelligence will, for the time being, have to work with less.

What Kushner can see now

A top staffer and trusted confidant, Kushner was operating with access to information at the highest levels of secrecy, and the change means those materials at the highest level would be out of his reach.

For example, CNN reported that the downgrade in Kushner's clearance status would prevent him from viewing the President's Daily Brief, a collection of some of the nation's most vital intelligence compiled for the President each day.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last week in response to news of Kelly issuing a directive on clearances that "nothing that has taken place will affect the valuable work Jared is doing."

And Kushner's attorney Abbe Lowell wrote in a statement: "As General Kelly himself said, the new clearance policy will not affect Mr. Kushner's ability to continue to do the very important work he has been assigned by the President."

But CNN national security analyst John Kirby, who worked as spokesman for the Pentagon and State Department in the Obama administration, said he did not see how Kushner, who the White House has advertised as being at the center of the Israel-Palestinan peace process, would be unaffected by the shift.

"This would seem to be crippling," Kirby said.

Kirby said information at the secret level not only contained less detail and nuance than information classified top secret, but also that some events would be referred to only at the top secret level.

"It's not just about the degree of complexity," he said.

Referring to Kushner, Kirby said there would be whole areas of information "that he's not going to get to see."

But Kirby said others might be less affected in their day-to-day jobs than Kushner would be for his reported duties.

"Sometimes there can be really useful intelligence at the confidential level or at the secret level," Kirby said.

Kirby stressed that access to classified information required people to both have the appropriate clearance level and the need to access the information.

For many situations, he said, a secret clearance would be enough.

Millions have clearances

CNN contributor Steve Vladeck, a University of Texas law professor, said it should ring alarm bells that Kushner has been unable to receive a permanent security clearance, and said it was duly notable because of "how many people are successfully able to receive that clearance."

The size of the population with security clearances is large. A 2015 report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence pegged the total at 2,885,570 people for confidential and secret clearances and 1,363,483 for top secret clearances.

Scrutinizing so many people for clearances is a major challenge for the government, and a Government Accountability Office report last year called for widespread reform to the clearance system, given its backlog and other issues outlined. Dan Coats, the current DNI, addressed concerns at a hearing earlier this month, saying the process for security clearances is "broken."

Trump himself has brushed up against government classification, opting to declassify a Republican memo alleging surveillance abuses earlier this year, and at an Oval Office meeting last year, he shared classified information with top Russian officials.

Asked if Trump might exercise his declassification ability when it came to overriding the Kushner situation, Vladeck said Trump has the authority to do so, but that it would be "unprecedented and quite politically controversial."

"Even though this is wholly within the executive branch, there are long standing rules and regulations governing the security clearance process to ensure they are not manipulated by political reasons," Vladeck said. "For the President to override that process would be to throw that understanding into the garbage."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1130719

Reported Deaths: 17736
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1468762242
Lake732391255
Allen68004883
Hamilton51739488
St. Joseph50459650
Elkhart40619547
Vanderburgh34963497
Tippecanoe31212276
Johnson27963467
Hendricks26585385
Porter25969387
Madison21318457
Clark20392279
Vigo19244309
LaPorte17405261
Delaware17004303
Howard16942315
Monroe16794220
Kosciusko14447167
Hancock13259186
Bartholomew13180191
Warrick12320190
Wayne12200269
Grant12181247
Floyd12096226
Morgan10552192
Boone9966124
Noble9429123
Marshall9295147
Henry9268169
Dearborn9053100
Dubois8877140
Shelby8402130
Cass8241128
Lawrence8134185
DeKalb7933109
Jackson779993
Huntington7761116
Montgomery7213123
Gibson7179118
Harrison7031100
Knox6958116
Steuben676589
Miami6675114
Whitley667260
Putnam651286
Clinton633179
Wabash6323111
Jasper622192
Jefferson5946105
Ripley565994
Adams547981
Daviess5124118
Scott498980
Wells4894106
White486069
Greene4749101
Clay468662
Decatur4659110
Fayette462597
Jennings457167
LaGrange432291
Posey412944
Randolph4010107
Washington393656
Fountain382264
Fulton368374
Spencer365147
Starke361474
Owen358577
Sullivan351155
Jay336450
Orange335272
Rush314833
Carroll301639
Franklin295244
Perry292853
Vermillion285958
Tipton253367
Parke251630
Pike251244
Blackford224944
Pulaski213759
Newton185052
Brown179750
Benton171717
Crawford170729
Martin152619
Switzerland149412
Warren137816
Union125116
Ohio92913
Unassigned0599

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1735925

Reported Deaths: 26851
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1807941843
Cuyahoga1705042655
Hamilton1146441544
Montgomery811601405
Summit728891210
Lucas637861027
Butler57319814
Stark544971183
Lorain42941645
Warren36238417
Mahoning36168788
Lake32818501
Clermont31601369
Trumbull27766620
Delaware27462185
Licking26929344
Medina26408353
Fairfield24875287
Greene24585373
Clark22391390
Portage21591283
Richland21339342
Wood20348248
Allen19172326
Miami17486352
Columbiana17078335
Muskingum16882207
Wayne15914307
Tuscarawas14631362
Marion13477196
Ashtabula12980237
Erie12832199
Scioto12586188
Pickaway12326155
Ross11824226
Hancock11659175
Geauga11090179
Lawrence10729172
Belmont10548234
Huron9891159
Jefferson9724228
Union966575
Sandusky9465166
Seneca9020161
Knox8893176
Washington8738159
Darke8446181
Athens842897
Ashland8130152
Auglaize8042120
Shelby7575135
Defiance7431117
Crawford7376150
Fulton7284113
Brown7225116
Logan7087111
Guernsey701786
Mercer6964100
Highland6822120
Clinton6554106
Williams655299
Madison653990
Preble6343140
Putnam6300122
Jackson586597
Champaign586187
Perry571279
Coshocton5700108
Ottawa5696102
Morrow524665
Fayette499072
Hardin4960100
Gallia475878
Van Wert470895
Pike468478
Adams4638110
Henry440380
Hocking414293
Holmes4044141
Wyandot379975
Carroll373678
Paulding327551
Meigs307961
Monroe237261
Noble221949
Morgan219439
Harrison216953
Vinton189738
Unassigned06
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