Twelve former senior intelligence officials issued a statement late Thursday criticizing President Trump’s “ill-considered and unprecedented” decision to strip former CIA Director John Brennan’s security clearance.
“The president’s action regarding John Brennan and the threats of similar action against other former officials has nothing to do with who should and should not hold security clearances — and everything to do with an attempt to stifle free speech,” the statement reads.
“As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech — even when that right has been used to criticize us — that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable.”
Among the signers are six former CIA directors -- including retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, who was a potential candidate for secretary of state in the early days of the Trump administration.
Also in the group: five former deputy directors of the CIA, and former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose name reportedly appeared on a White House list of ex-officials who may soon join Brennan in losing their security clearances.
"As individuals who have cherished and helped preserve the right of Americans to free speech — even when that right has been used to criticize us — that signal is inappropriate and deeply regrettable."
The dozen stressed that while they don’t necessarily agree with comments made by Brennan, who’s become a frequent guest on liberal news channels, they believe he has the right to voice them.
The statement came just a day after the White House revoked Brennan’s security clearance following a review of access granted to several top Obama-era intelligence and law enforcement officials.
The Trump administration said Brennan “has a history that calls his credibility into question,” and accused him of “leveraging” the clearance to make “wild outbursts” and claims about the administration.
“The president has a constitutional responsibility to protect classified information and who has access to it, and that’s what he’s doing is fulfilling that responsibility in this action,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.
In a series of tweets, Trump also tweeted comments critical of Brennan, including that he “has gone off the deep end”.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.