Seamus Bruner, Government Accountability Institute (GAI) researcher and author of Compromised: How Money and Politics Drive FBI Corruption, explained how former FBI Directors James Comey and Robert Mueller leveraged their government contacts to enrich themselves. He joined Peter Schweizer, GAI president and Breitbart News senior editor-at-large, for an interview on Monday’s edition of SiriusXM’s Breitbart News Tonight with hosts Rebecca Mansour and Joel Pollak.
Bruner and Schweizer examined what they described as a “revolving door” of “cronyism” within the federal government’s national security and intelligence apparatuses, focusing on the monetization of security clearances held by former administration officials, such as John Brennan and James Clapper.
Bruner noted the growth of Comey’s net worth between 2003 and 2009, after Comey left the Department of Justice to join Lockheed Martin as senior vice president and lead counsel.
“It doesn’t really make much sense why [Lockheed Martin] would pay [James Comey] upwards of six million dollars in a single year,” assessed Bruner. “But one reason — aside from his security clearance — is that his buddy Robert Mueller is running the FBI. They begin passing 100-million-dollar-plus contracts to Lockheed Martin.”
Bruner continued, “One of these contracts was actually worth a billion dollars, and it was protested formally by the other bidder: IBM. … The contracts flowed from Robert Mueller’s FBI to James Comey’s private sector employer, Lockheed Martin, and James Comey made many millions over a short period of time.”
Bruner described Comey as “one of the prime examples of this kind of cashing in on government contacts.”
“We followed the money and realized that James Comey made well over ten million dollars from when he left the public sector in 2005 and by the time he returned to serve as FBI director [in 2009],” said Bruner. “He even made over six million dollars in a single year at the top government contracting corporation, Lockheed Martin; they get over $50 billion a year in government contracts.”
Bruner affirmed CNN’s Paris Dennard’s analysis of security clearance commodification among ex-government officials.
Bruner said, “[Paris Dennard] was absolutely right, and everybody knows that top-level intelligence folks leave the public sector and go cash in on their knowledge, experience, [and] security clearances. That’s one of the main reasons Brennan is crying so loudly–because he can’t work at a lot of these contractors without a security clearance.”
Schweizer also explained the value of security clearances held by former government officials: “In the exchange [between Paris Dennard and Phil Mudd], Mr. Mudd is being wholly disingenuous–because what he essentially said was, ‘I, personally, don’t have contracts.’ He may or may not. He may be entirely honest about that, but he knows darn well that his colleagues are neck-deep in these kinds of consulting arrangements.”
Schweizer added, “Consulting firms … all have large amounts of projects in management positions and subcontracting that they engage in, and if you want any of those … you have to have a security clearance.”
Governmental domains of national security and intelligence are vulnerable to “cronyism,” said Schweizer: “[They are] not immune to the exact same forces of cronyism and self-enrichment that we see anywhere else in government. It’s like the executive at Health and Human Services who does favors for the pharmaceutical industry and then goes and works for big pharma. The same thing happens in this space.”
Schweizer continued, “What makes [a top-level security clearance] so valuable for a guy like Brennan is he can be read into all of it, and he has access to all of it. Mark my words … if he was not doing contracting right now, he would be looking to do contracting. That’s no longer available to him [because] he has had his security clearance lost [and] cannot have access to any of that material now.”
Schweizer expanded, “John Brennan can now not get a call from, let’s say, a senior FBI official who wants to ask him a question on counterterrorism. They cannot now call and have a conversation involving anything that includes classified material. It’s going to be a big change in John Brennan’s life, and it also affects him commercially because … he cannot get consulting arrangements with these big intelligence contractors.”
Schweizer went on, “‘Compromised’ follows the money and rips the veil off of the sorts of things that go on at the highest levels of the FBI and the intelligence community.”
Bruner speculated about motivations for news media and political recalcitrance towards removal of security clearances from former government officials: “In theory, they retain their security clearances so they can advise some think tank on matters of nationals security, but I don’t think that’s the reason John Brennan and James Clapper and others are throwing temper tantrums, especially Phil Mudd. … It’s the lure of large dollars.”
Pollak asked about conflicts of interest arising from the employment of former top-level intelligence officials at cable news media outlets.
Schweizer replied, “It does create a really murky [and] conflicted arrangement that is never really discussed or disclosed while they’re on these cable news programs.”
Bruner considered Brennan and Clapper’s leveraging of security clearances to obtain positions with CNN and MSNBC: “This Clapper-CNN relationship is really new territory, where you have the former director of national intelligence sharing information about a dossier which has now been debunked using this kind of politicized piece of opposition research and then sharing it with a news network. Who knows what amount of it was classified at the time? This is beyond your run-of-the-mill cronyism; this is really into uncharted territory and really alarming.”
Schweizer framed Comey’s “veneer” of selfless “public service” as “ridiculous.”
“The American people are very thankful to people that are out on the battlefield fighting terrorist organizations or rank and file FBI who are tracking down terror cells in the United States,” said Schweizer. “There are people that make a lot of sacrifices that never cash in the way that Jim Comey has, but Jim Comey wants to be treated as the rank and file FBI agent who just diligently did his job and performed a public service.”
Schweizer continued, “The research that Seamus has done in this book shows that that’s just simply not the case. It’s a revolving door, and they ought to be seen and recognized as such. The veneer of, ‘I’ve always done things that are just in the national interest’ is ridiculous. What you find in this national security and intelligence space is the same thing you find elsewhere in government, which is, a lot of times, individuals, when they’re in government, they create opportunities for their own services within the private sector so when they leave and go into the private sector, they’re set up very well. It seems pretty clear that some of that has happened with Comey-Mueller.”
Schweizer offered recommendations for curbing corrupt exploitation of security clearances by ex-government employees.
“You’re not entitled to this,” stated Schweizer. “We appreciate their service to the country, but a guy who has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years [gets] a retirement pension, but they don’t get some special access to government information whenever they want and for as long as they want because of public service. I think the notion of need-to-know is clear.”
Schweizer concluded, “If you are not involved in some important government oversight program, some review board, some internal classified think tank effort [like] war-gaming — if you’re not doing something like that — you don’t have an entitled right to have access to this information. You just don’t. The number of people with top-secret security clearances in the United States is astronomically high. It’s way too high. It numbers into the millions.”
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