By Brooke Singman, ,
Published August 17, 2018
John Brennan rallied numerous high-powered defenders to his corner over his security clearance clash with President Trump, but some well-known special ops heroes are firing back suggesting the former CIA director got what he deserves.
Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a former Army Ranger and private security contractor who was part of the CIA team that fought back during the 2012 Benghazi terror attack, accused Brennan of putting his “politics” before those in the field.
“He is lucky the security clearance is all he is getting away with,” Paronto told Fox News in an interview on Friday.
Responding a day earlier to Brennan’s tweet that his “principles are worth far more than clearances,” Paronto also tweeted:
“My principles are greater than clearances too John, especially when you and the @CIA kool-aid drinkers punishes us for not going along with the Benghazi cover-up story in order to protect you, @HillaryClinton’s & @BarackObama’s failures. You put your politics before us.”
Paronto helped write the book "13 Hours," later turned into a feature film, about the Benghazi attack. He has said he and his team lost their security clearances for speaking out.
Security operators including Paronto previously had to sign non-disclosure agreements -- Paronto told Fox News he signed three pertaining to Benghazi within a six-month period -- though Brennan told lawmakers in 2014 this was not a specific effort to prevent them from speaking to Congress.
Paronto maintains, however, that he didn't share classified information in telling the Benghazi story and continues to object to their clearances being revoked.
“Normally when you have a clearance suspended, you’re supposed to know why ... I was never given that,” he said, blaming Brennan. “It was his determination whether we kept our clearances or not.”
He also took exception at how the Benghazi team was treated upon their return.
“We come back from being on the ground to be treated as a second class citizen. You come back and you’re called a liar,” Paronto told Fox News. “Brennan came in and there was no talk of ‘hey, good job guys,’ not that you look for it, but instead, it was ‘don’t say anything guys, we don’t want the truth to get out.’”
Paronto continued his attack against Brennan on Twitter Thursday night, firing a round of accusations against the former CIA director.
Meanwhile, numerous leaders from the intelligence community defended Brennan, calling President Trump’s decision to revoke his security clearance “ill-considered and unprecedented.”
“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 letter from 12 former intelligence officials read.
“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,” they wrote.
The group included six former CIA directors, notably retired Army Gen. David H. Petraeus; former director of national intelligence James Clapper, whose security clearance is also under consideration at the White House; and five former deputy directors of the CIA.
Another senior official, William McRaven, who was commander of U.S. Joint Special Operations command from 2011 to 2014 and oversaw the Navy SEAL raid in Pakistan that killed Usama bin Laden, penned an op-ed for the Washington Post Thursday, urging Trump to “revoke my security clearance, too.”
McRaven called Brennan “a man of unparalleled integrity,” and said he would “consider it an honor” to have his security clearance revoked and add his name to “the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.”
“If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken,” McRaven wrote. “The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.”
Robert O’Neill, the SEAL Team 6 member who killed bin Laden, respectfully disagreed with McRaven.
“I have nothing but respect and love for ADM McRaven. Yes I’ve seen this. We simply disagree,” O’Neill tweeted with a link to McRaven’s op-ed.
But O’Neill reserved a Twitter burn for former Obama foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes, who touted the ex-CIA director’s involvement in the killing of the 9/11 mastermind in 2011.
“John Brennan was the point person for the Obama White House on the operation that killed Osama bin Laden. He knows a lot more about defending our nation than someone who uses security clearances to punish his political adversaries,” Rhodes tweeted.
O’Neill responded: “Actually, @brhodes, 23 conservatives went after UBL. No offense, in case you were wondering.”