The president’s petulant decision yesterday to strip the security clearance away from former CIA director John Brennan as punishment for publicly criticizing him prompted an immediate outpouring of condemnation and outrage from the public.
One of the most powerful voices to join the clamor was retired Admiral William H. McRaven, the leader of the raid that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in 2011.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post, McRaven asks the President if he would revoke his security clearance too, saying it would be a badge of honor and sanctify his position as a public opponent of an authoritarian president.
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Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency.
Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs.
A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.
Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities. Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation.
If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.
We don’t need to go overboard with the impulse to lionize former intelligence officers like Brennan, who after all did create the murderous drone program that has killed thousands of innocent people and used the CIA to spy on members of the U.S. Senate when they were preparing the report on the CIA’s secret torture program during the Bush years.
But we also must not stand by while the president bullies public officials for leveling fairly tame criticisms at him and attempting to discredit law enforcement’s investigation into his alleged collusion with agents of a hostile foreign power.
The ability to level criticism at authority is one of the most important freedoms that Americans enjoy, and any threat to freedom must be responded to with all of our energy and determination.