NBC has released new information that shows the urgency of the House Oversight Committee’s recent announcement that it will be investigating how Jared Kushner, with his questionable ties to foreign governments, was ever granted a Top Secret security clearance. Remember how many times he revised his disclosure forms? What about that secret “back channel” he tried to set up between the Trump administration and the Russian government? And how about his chummy relationship with the notorious Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman?
Jared Kushner’s application for a top secret clearance was rejected by two career White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence on him — but their supervisor overruled the recommendation and approved the clearance, two sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner’s was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, the two sources said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival. …
“What you are reporting is what all of us feared,” said Brad Moss, a lawyer who represents persons seeking security clearances. "The normal line adjudicators looked at the FBI report…saw the foreign influence concerns, but were overruled by the quasi-political supervisor."
The sources said they did not know whether Kline was in communication with senior political White House officials. They say he overruled career bureaucrats at least 30 times, granting top secret clearances to officials in the Executive Office of the President or the White House after adjudicators working for him recommended against doing so. …
Kushner’s application followed the normal path for security clearance. It passed a “suitability review” in the White House and then went to the FBI for a background investigation.
Following the FBI investigation, the case went back to the White House office of personnel security, where a career adjudicator reviewed the FBI information, including questions about foreign influence and foreign business entanglements, the sources said. …
On the basis of potential foreign influence, the adjudicator deemed Kushner’s application “unfavorable” and handed it to a supervisor.
The supervisor agreed with the “unfavorable” determination and gave it to Kline, the head of the office at the time, who overruled the “unfavorable” determination and approved Kushner for “top secret” security clearance, the sources said.
"No one else gets that kind of treatment," Moss said. “My clients would get body slammed if they did that.”
Sources also told NBC News career employees of the White House office disagreed with other steps Kline took, including ceasing credit checks on security clearance applicants. The sources said Kline cited a data breach at the credit reporting firm Equifax.
And the two career security adjudicators at the White House were not the only ones who assessed Kushner as unfit to have Top Secret access. The article describes how the CIA weighed in as well:
After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top secret clearance, Kushner’s file then went to the CIA for a ruling on SCI [Special Compartmented Information clearance which is even higher than Top Secret].
After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions balked, two of the people familiar with the matter said. One called over to the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top secret clearance, the sources said.
So Kushner’s Top Secret clearance was called into question by:
- The FBI in an unfavorable report.
- A White House security clearance adjudicator who reviewed the report.
- That adjudicator’s supervisor.
- Security clearance adjudicators at the CIA.
Yet the findings of all those experts were overruled by Karl Kline, who was (of course) appointed by Trump.
So now the question for the House Oversight Committee becomes, "Who is this guy Kline and to whom is he beholden?"