: It has been said that Sen. Obama would not be able to get a security clearance now if he applied for one because of the many relationships he has had in the past, and now, with people like Khalid al-Mansour and Bill Ayers. Is that true?
Well, of course, all I can do to render my opinion is to the time I served in government, and I retired after 35 years in 1994. But at one time I was the Assistant Director in charge of the administrative division of the FBI, which as part of its duties was hiring and clearing personnel, and certainly we would not have hired during my tenure a person that had the background, associates and relationships that Obama has had over his adult life.
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Now, that's not saying that he has engaged in any illegal or improper activity, but when you associate with people of the likes of Bill Ayers, who is not only a known radical but an unrepentant radical, and teaches a radical socialism - some would say communist - approach to government, and espouses the use of violence if "necessary," and he determines when it's necessary, this is not the kind of person that an association with - and an association that was both voluntary and lengthy - would give you the necessary satisfaction that the applicant himself was not involved to some degree or at least acknowledged and agreed with parts of that person's social or political agenda.
Certainly with the Rev. Wright, if we had an individual who was coming in for an agent application, and he belonged to the Aryan Nation's Church and he had as his counselor and pastor Richard Gibb Butler, who was a radical white extremist, we would not have considered that person for a position in the Bureau because that is essentially a relationship with a racist entity; and being counseled by a vehement racist - whether he is black, white, red or brown - in and of itself is reason not to give someone access to highly classified information or a job in government that requires that.
Obama's relationships with various hoodlum figures in the Chicago area certainly would be something to look into and you'd have to determine the extent and degree of that relationship to make that determination, but it would be examined very carefully. I have no knowledge that Obama himself has engaged in any illegal or improper activities; I don't know that he has himself engaged in the radical activities that his associates have - or certainly the criminal activities that they have - but the fact that he knowingly associated with people - and he knew their backgrounds and he continued to associate with them - would have, in my opinion, been disqualifying for special agent position, an analyst position, in fact any position that required a security clearance.
By what has been reported and to some degree acknowledged, would in my view, have disqualified him for a position in the FBI based upon the fact that he wouldn't have qualified for a security clearance.
It sounds to me that the FBI operates less on the idea of "guilt by association" and more on the idea of "a man is known by the company he keeps."
It's not guilt by association, but it's essentially if you associate with people on a continuing basis who have posed a threat to our nation by either advocating anarchy and/or an overthrow of the government or who are racist and advocate the potential of racial conflict or who are engaged in criminal activities, then you have not shown good judgment. You have not shown that you are the kind of person who can differentiate between those who are appropriate to associate with and those who are not. So on the basis of the judgment issue, and then of course, if you found any specific activity, you'd judge that as well. But just the judgment in continuing to associate with people that he knew were engaging in racist and radical, violence-prone socialist activities would be sufficient to disqualify him from consideration for the top secret clearance and the FBI position.
Now, you may get some people in the Bureau today to say "well, that's not so," but I'm telling you what it would have been when I was there, and I certainly stand by that.
: Is it possible if someone like that were to achieve the office of the presidency, might there be some kind of effort among our intelligence services to watch him as he goes through his daily routines? Would anyone worry because of some of these associations or that he might divulge any of the classified information he will be seeing? That's what worries many Americans.
: Well even the president can't divulge classified information to unauthorized persons. Now, he has the ultimate authority to declassify information, but certainly if he declassified something that was very sensitive that resulted in harm to our society, he'd be subject to an impeachment process because the president is not above the law. We found that with President Nixon and then with investigations into the Iran Contra affair and so forth. Whether anyone would withhold information from him, as Commander-in-Chief, he is entitled to all of the information that is relevant to his position and decision-making process. Certainly, you would not expect that to be done.
And the president has to sign off on covert operations, so agencies and other services that carry out covert operations of a significant type have to be signed off on by the president. So I suspect if there was an instance where covert operations were presented and declined, they might be much less likely to present covert operations that would be necessary to prevent some type of action against the United States. So I think the agencies would certainly provide the president all the relevant intelligence. If they believed it was being abused, it would become more constrained and certainly if there was evidence it was abused and it was clearly and illegal and improper act - if he didn't go through the declassification process - that would be an offense that could be taken before the Congress to consider the impeachment process.
So a president is not above the law and can be held accountable by the law, but the individual agencies or agents of those agencies shouldn't withhold information from the president unless there is an ongoing and formal process that would indicate he's not trustworthy to have that information.
It seems that there are three unsavory groups with whom Sen. Obama has had relationships, and they are 1) the people who have ties or relationships, or have been named as unindicted co-conspirators to, Islamic terrorists or organizations - people who are referred to as "radical Islamists"; 2) the Black Liberation Theology or Black Nationalist people such as Rev. Jeremiah Wright and 3) the domestic terrorists, such as Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground. In these three major groups, do you consider them all to be the same in terms of their threat to American freedoms?
Well I don't consider the Rev. Wright to be a threat. I consider him to be a bigot and a racist and anyone who would sit and listen to him certainly is not showing good judgment in associating with the person... just like it would be if it was a minister who was a member of the KKK and a white politician would be a part of that congregation and sit and listen to him rant about blacks and Hispanics and Catholics and whomever didn't fit their particular mold. And we certainly had many ministers in the U.S. in the south during the ‘50s and ‘60s who associating with them would have been a very difficult circumstance if a person had applied to be an FBI employee because they were clearly involved with the white racist element.
But the Wright situation, I don't think that there was, to my knowledge, that there was a group coming out of that church who were involved in committing hate crimes or things of that nature. It was simply that Obama allowed himself to be caught up in all this white-hate rhetoric - hate-America rhetoric - that he should have, as an educated and respected member of the community, said "This is not acceptable, this is not American, this is not the way to go and either you cease and desist or I'm leaving this church." That's the choice that all of us have and if you don't agree with what is being said, then you just disassociate.
As far as the relationships with Ayers and the Islamic groups, that may well have been his attempt to reach out and broaden the relationships, but if they are inappropriate because they have not reformed themselves and they still advocate an anti-American bias, either through direct action through civil disobedience, or in some cases violence, I find it very troublesome that he showed the lack of judgment to disassociate himself from the radical fringe, whether it be the Islamists or the social activists such as the Weather Underground element, which were essentially making a cross between the anarchists and communists - they couldn't quite decide what they were - ChÃ© Guevara was their idol and they engaged in direct action by setting off bombs, and actually, some of the elements of that group killed police officers and innocent bystanders. This was not a protest organization...it was a terrorist organization.
Considering this situation we find ourselves in today, do you think presidential candidates should be vetted more before they are allowed even to run for their party's nomination?
Well that's very difficult to say how you would do that - no elected official - senator or congressman or the vice president or president - goes through a security clearance process. The very election process itself is considered vetting. Now there have been many members of congress that we would not provide information to. Even though they are entitled to a security clearance doesn't mean that agencies that have discretion would trust them, and we knew that there were some that we could not trust. With the president and the vice president you really have no choice but to provide the information unless and until you determine that it's being abused and then you have to take the action of going to the attorney general, and if the attorney general won't act, you go to the oversight committees of the Congress to explain that there have been inappropriate actions taken on highly sensitive and classified information. Now that's a drastic step but, on the other hand, it's one that is called for under the law and it's exactly what should be done if either the president or the vice president is engaging in unlawful activity.
: Has that ever happened where you had to go to the oversight committees and so forth?
Well actually during the Watergate investigation there were Congressional committees that came out of the ongoing criminal investigation, and of course those committees eventually ended up in making recommendations for impeachment. In the Iran Contra affair, the president had to give a statement under oath. He also was considered a potential suspect in improper or illegal activities. It was determined that he hadn't leaked any information or taken any action that was improper. But certainly you cannot indict a sitting president but you can take an action that would result in impeachment and once a person is impeached, tried in the Senate and convicted and removed, then they can be charged as any other citizen.
: OK. Well, thank you very much for your time today; you've been very generous with it, and we appreciate it a lot.
You're very welcome.
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