It’s almost been lost in the news about Donald Trump’s missile strike on Syria, but son-in-law Jared Kushner is in a real fix. Apparently, he “forgot” to mention his meetings with foreign officials, including one with the career spy who runs Vladimir Putin’s favorite bank, to the FBI when he applied for a top secret security clearance.
“This is not just bureaucratic paperwork,” they report.
The form warns that “withholding, misrepresenting, or falsifying information” could result in loss of access to classified information, denial of eligibility for a sensitive job and even prosecution; knowingly falsifying or concealing material facts is a federal felony that may result in fines or up to five years imprisonment.
Clearance holders are often allowed to amend disclosure forms and avoid punishment if omissions are deemed oversights rather than deliberate falsifications, and prosecutions are rare.
Indeed, the usual punishment for nondisclosure is a simple denial, which usually means the applicant loses whatever job prospects came with the clearance. Donald Trump could grant his son-in-law access, anyway, but it would definitely not be a good look to have the FBI reject Jared’s application.
Kushner’s attorney tells the Times that “the questionnaire was submitted prematurely” on January 18th, and that his client still intends to “provide supplemental information” eleven weeks later.
While the process may be slightly different for White House jobs, failure to disclose is the only real mortal sin for security clearance applicants. Just consider these examples of people I have known who were granted Top Secret access in the US Army, which had its own system of vetting.
- A woman who, as a teenager, had stalked and stabbed her twin sister’s alleged rapist to death, enlisting less than six months after leaving the juvenile facility where she earned her GED. Helpfully, her sister also enlisted and was able to verify her story
- A man who spent nearly two years following a traveling music festival, consuming LSD on a daily basis for a year and financing his travels by slinging pot, pills, psychedelic mushrooms, and cocaine the whole time. He was allowed to proceed after a detailed review — with a polygraph session, because the people in charge of his case had a hard time believing he had taken or sold as many drugs as he claimed
- An enlistee who ran up more than $10,000 on a credit card that they were too young to have in the first place, then defaulted, long before joining up. This soldier’s career was put on hold for a few months while a court declared the debt invalid
Every one of them was eventually cleared to work with classified material. The key point here is that all of them disclosed what they had done, no matter how terrible or suggestive of bad character, and that this happens more often than most people realize.
By contrast, Jared Kushner has failed to disclose his meeting with a known Russian spy who runs a bank that is currently under US sanctions. If that doesn’t set off alarm bells in the FBI’s counterintelligence investigation of the Trump campaign and transition, something is very, very wrong.
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