Jared Kushner’s top secret security clearance application was rejected by two White House security specialists after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence, but their supervisor overruled them and approved the clearance for President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, NBC News reports.
Carl Kline is a former Pentagon employee who became director of the president’s personnel security office in May 2017. Kushner was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved top secret security clearance for incoming Trump officials, the two sources told NBC News on condition of anonymity.
The sources said the Trump White House attracted many people with complicated financial and personal histories, some of which raised red flags. They said overruling a rejection recommendation had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline’s arrival.
The White House personnel security office only determines eligibility for secret and top-secret clearances. After Kline overruled the White House security specialists and recommended Kushner for a top secret clearance, Kushner’s file went to the CIA for a ruling on an even higher designation that would grant him access to what is known as “sensitive compartmented information,” or SCI. That material includes the government’s most sensitive secrets, including intercepted foreign communications, CIA source reporting and other intelligence seemingly important for Kushner, a senior adviser whose job portfolio covers the Mideast and Mexico.
After reviewing the file, CIA officers who make clearance decisions declined to approve the SCI, two sources told NBC News. One called the White House security division, wondering how Kushner got even a top secret clearance, the sources said.
Kushner’s case is certain to come up again. House Democrats this Wednesday launched an investigation into White House security clearance procedures, The Hill reports. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings asked that the White House make its personnel security officers available for questions starting Feb. 11.
The reasons for denying a clearance can include debts, a criminal past or questions about foreign entanglements — anything in a person’s background that could make them vulnerable to blackmail can be a factor. The Washington Post reported last February that intelligence reports said officials in the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico had privately discussed ways they could manipulate Kushner. That month Kushner’s interim security clearance was downgraded from the top secret to secret. But in May 2018, Kushner was once again granted top secret clearance.