Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked classified intelligence to reporters in 2013, taunted the Trump administration for taking over a year to obtain permanent security clearances for some of the president’s top advisers.
“I got a security clearance faster than half of this White House,” Mr. Snowden, 34, tweeted Monday.
Mr. Snowden’s razzing came in response to recent news reports involving President Trump’s administration and its inability so far to obtain permanent security clearances for dozens of White House officials and political appointees, including Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and close adviser, and Rob Porter, the recently terminated White House staff secretary.
More than a year into the Trump administration, upwards of 40 people have relied on temporary security clearances granting them interim access to classified information pending the results of ongoing FBI-conducted background checks, Mr. Kushner and Mr. Porter included, The Washington Post and CNN both reported Friday.
The White House has defended the delayed turnaround in Mr. Kushner’s case as “completely normal.” Skeptics have pointed at past reports involving his previously undisclosed conversations with former Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyack, however, as well as other incidents that could potentially complicate his ability to clear any hurdles keeping him from a permanent security clearance.
Mr. Snowden enlisted in the U.S. Army in May 2004, but he broke both of his legs during basic training and was discharged four months later. He took a job the following year as a security guard at a NSA facility, albeit after obtaining a high-level security clearance upon passing a polygraph examination and background check, Wired reported previously. He subsequently worked for the CIA and had been employed as a NSA contractor holding a “top-secret” security clearance when he began leaking classified intelligence in 2013, including documents exposing the extent of the U.S. intelligence community’s international surveillance operations.
Mr. Snowden was charged with espionage by the Obama administration in connection with leaking classified intelligence, but was granted asylum by Russia in 2013 and has avoided prosecution by residing there ever since.
Mr. Trump was highly critical of Mr. Snowden before taking office, and he previously called him “a traitor,” “a disgrace,” “a coward,” “a piece of human garbage,” “a liar and a fraud” and “a spy who should be executed,” among other unpleasantries.