Adam Lovinger, a pro-Donald Trump national security analyst who recently made headlines when his top-secret government security clearance was suspended for allegedly partisan political reasons is taking legal action to have it restored.
Lovinger, a respected strategic affairs analyst with the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment (ONA), had been on loan to the National Security Council, where he was a senior director for strategic assessments. He had been named to the post by former National Security Adviser Gen. Michael T. Flynn. Flynn resigned from his White House job in February after evidence surfaced that he had discussed US sanctions with Russia’s ambassador to the US.
Lovinger’s Top-Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information clearance was suspended by the Pentagon on May 1. Defenders say the NSC aide was the victim of Obama holdovers in the US intelligence bureaucracy who opposed Lovinger’s hardline stances on radical Islam, Iran and China and were leery of his professional ties to Flynn.
It’s unclear how long it will take the Pentagon to act on Lovinger’s legal push to have his clearance restored. Analysts say the process could take months, denying the NSC the services of a valued specialist who assesses future military threats to the US. They also note that Lovinger has no connection to the current public controversy surrounding Flynn.
“Mr. Lovinger’s security clearance has now been suspended for a month. Despite repeated requests, to-date (the Department of Defense) has failed to provide us with any factual basis for the absurd accusations made against Mr. Lovinger by known anti-Trump partisans”, said Sean M. Bigley, Lovinger’s attorney, in a statement to Asia Times. “Mr. Lovinger is entitled to a prompt opportunity to prove these allegations for what they are: overt political retaliation. The longer this case is delayed, the more harm is inflicted on Mr. Lovinger’s reputation, career opportunities, and future earnings potential.”
Lovinger is an expert on South Asia, the Persian Gulf and sub-Saharan Africa. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University, and a Juris Doctor from the Georgetown University Law Center.
Since his security clearance was suspended on May 1, Lovinger has been sent back to the Pentagon, where a source close to the matter says he is only allowed to perform low-level clerical duties. Unclassified correspondence from one of Lovinger’s Pentagon superiors obtained by Asia Times shows that he is also prevented from delivering speeches or making business trips related to US national security.
President can decide
Angelo Codevilla, a former senior official on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says it is the President who ultimately holds the power to decide who receives security clearance and who does not.
“No bureaucrat in any agency can grant or refuse a security clearance on his or her authority,” Codevilla said. “Insofar as anyone exercises such authority, they do so as agents of the President of the United States.”
“The Trump administration is letting itself be played by the bureaucracy, which is managing to exercise a veto on who will represent Trump” in government, Codevilla added.
Codevilla cited an example in 2009 when the FBI recommended against giving speechwriter Ben Rhodes top-secret clearance as President Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. Obama’s office overrode the FBI’s objection and granted Rhodes access.
President Trump, in a similar scenario, could restore Lovinger’s security clearance if he chose to do so, according to Codevilla.
Lovinger’s challenge to his clearance suspension is under the oversight of Michael Rhodes, the director of management and administration at the Pentagon who oversees the Department of Defense Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF).
“If a query involves a personnel matter, that is a private matter and we wouldn’t be able to comment on it,” Rhodes said in an email responding to questions from Asia Times on when Lovinger’s case would move forward. Air Force Lt. Col. Eric D. Badger, a Pentagon press spokesperson, also declined to comment on the case.
Flynn, meanwhile, continues to be the center of a controversy regarding his contacts with Russian officials and remains under probe by US agencies. The New York Times has reported that Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to shut down an investigation into Flynn prior to firing Comey on May 9.
Doug Tsuruoka is Editor-at-Large of Asia Times