James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, told the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday that the government shutdown—then in its second day—“seriously damages” our national security and creates “a dreamland for foreign intelligence service to recruit, particularly as our employees—already, many of whom subject to furloughs driven by sequestration—are going to have, I believe, even greater financial challenges.”
If our intelligence personnel are such easy pickings for spy recruiters after just two days of missed work, then something’s really wrong with Mr. Clapper’s hiring process.
What kind of American waffles over national loyalty because of a few days of missed salary? The intelligence professionals I know would never consider such a thing.
For the Director of National Intelligence to suggest that this shutdown is likely to create treasonous spies out of loyal Americans impugns the integrity of the men and women he is supposed to lead.
His remarks are pure politics, of the worst sort.
Yes, significant debt may render an intelligence officer more vulnerable to blackmail. And anyone who has lived paycheck to paycheck knows that a missed paycheck (or a suddenly smaller paycheck) throws a monkey wrench in the gears of daily living.
But let’s be honest here. The government had been shut down for two days when Director Clapper stated that the “financial challenges” of his staff creates a “dreamland” for spy recruiters. The sequester furloughs in most agencies have resulted in one or two missed days of work each month, for six months—so some federal employees may have lost pay for about six to twelve days total in the past six months, depending on the agency. It’s not even clear that furloughs have cost civilian intelligence employees more than a few days of missed work.
If that’s the kind of financial pressure that produces instant spies, then Mr. Clapper has got a lot of explaining to do—about the people he’s hiring.
In truth, intelligence agencies routinely screen job-hopefuls for debt load and credit problems. Security clearances may be denied based on financial problems and intelligence communities keep tabs on the financial issues of employees in sensitive positions.
And, according to press reports, Mr. Clapper himself acknowledged that the intelligence community “is setting up counseling services for employees to help them manage their finances.”
Fear-mongering to create political pressure is what we’ve come to expect from the President and the Democrats generally.
But for the Director of National Intelligence to play on the fears of ordinary Americans by throwing mud on his own intelligence professionals is reprehensible.