Why Don’t Presidents Get Security Clearances or Background Checks?

I Have Had More Than I Can Count! Why Does The Trump Team Have Them? Because This Administration Staged a Coup D’Etat With Russian Help

Dr. Lisa Galarneau
Jan 20, 2017 · 6 min read
Most jobs require a range of background checking and verification, so why doesn’t the Presidency have the same requirements?

I had my first background check and polygraph test at the tender age of 16, when I found a $5.75/hour job working in a distribution center for McKesson Corporation. They distributed over the counter drugs, you see, so they wanted to make sure I wasn’t liable to steal any. I was grilled about all sorts of things and then had to successfully complete a polygraph test verifying my answers.

A mere two years later, and I spent several hours over two days being interviewed and polygraph-tested for my US Army job in military intelligence. I was a Russian linguist (98G), which required a top secret clearance with SCI (sensitive compartmented information) access. I was young and hadn’t done much, but it was still EXTREMELY rigorous. The major bone of contention? I had spent the previous year in Chile as an exchange student — this was in 1987 when Pinochet was still in power. In addition to a multitude of questions (including whether I had ever skinny-dipped and other trivialities), I also had to give names and addresses of all of my contacts there. They still seemed concerned, but it appeared that I had sufficiently appeased them. I was also told that they would be contacting my family, friends, school personnel, and neighbors to corroborate my story. I apparently passed, but it did have me worried.

Most job candidates run a gauntlet of interviews, screenings, employment and education verification, and other hoops meant to reduce risk.

Fast forward a few years and my many and varied jobs in the tech industry have all required background checks, sometimes credit checks, and at times, drug testing. All jobs, in fact, require some sort of process of verifying qualifications, checking references, and otherwise screening applicants.

So I find myself confused. How is it that a president can be elected and sworn in without having to submit to similar procedures? How can someone be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief of the United States of America, with access to considerable intelligence and codes to nuclear arsenal, without being required to pass even a basic security clearance/background check procedure? How can they hand out clearances to the team they assembled, given their connections to foreign elements and criminal activities? Who vctted them? Only disclosure forms, which have already had to be refiled several times because of discrepancies. Also, remember the foreign agent disclosures that had to be refiled?

I started digging:

The President has no security clearance, in the sense that other employees of the federal government do. Simply put, there is no document held by the United States government that the President is restricted from viewing for reasons of national security. It’s also impossible for the President to violate a security classification; the President has the absolute authority to decide who is and is not entitled to know what is in a classified document, and may reveal any classified fact he or she deems appropriate to any person at any time for any reason (except possibly for a few narrow cases where specific statutes make such releases illegal). — Kelly Martin (Quora)

No background checks or security clearances required. No need to release your tax returns as it is merely a matter of tradition. Winning what is frankly a popularity contest is the job interview. Once green-lit, you slide right into a position of incredible authority, with access to all sorts of resources, military and otherwise, and no one but your critics asks any questions about your qualifications. Well, unless you have previously held public office.

The president of the United States is not subject to a security screening and does not hold a security clearance. Once elected, only time and inclination separate a new president from opening the vaults and knowing the truth about everything. This will come as a great relief to the candidates of both major parties, neither of whom would likely otherwise qualify for a clearance. In the case of Donald Trump: his multiple bankruptcies, the ongoing Trump University lawsuit, and his contact with undesirable foreign nationals (Vladimir Putin would make a poor character reference on an SF-86) would probably add up to a big red X stamped across his form. Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, would have to answer — while hooked up to a polygraph — whether in the past seven years she ever received a warning or reprimand for any “violation of a security policy.” — David Brown (Quora)

The Vice-President is similarly sworn in, no questions asked. The Cabinet picks require congressional confirmation, but if your guys have the majority in Congress, they slide right in, too. No background checks, no polygraph tests, no security clearance. No accountability, in short, for past behavior, no matter what allegations might be pending.

Considering the number of scandals and investigations currently underway, it seems logical to think that some sort of due diligence needs to be part of the election, transition, and inauguration process. And yet, here we are. Trump has been sworn in despite assertions that he is in immediate violation of our Constitution.

There are also a plethora of scandals ranging from sexual assault, including minors, nepotism, conflicts of interest, unpaid debts, collusion with foreign powers, and tax evasion. Sure, due process is an important part of our justice system, but most people, in most jobs, would be disqualified on the basis of Trump’s paper, tweet, and video trail. And yet, we have sworn in a President who has made his values and willingness to tangle with the dark side abundantly clear.

Oh, and as noted in the above quote, presidents can change the classification status of anything with an executive order:

How can it be that those of us in fairly mundane, unimportant jobs must be so scrutinized, yet the one person in control of the executive branch of our entire government, as well as the military, is not? Trump could decide to bomb or invade anyone tomorrow, and there would be no way to stop him. Only formal acts of war require congressional agreement.

I struggle to understand this lack of accountability in our highest bastions of power. I confess to not having worried about this until now. But presidential decisions are extremely important and I am very nervous about the power of one particular pen at this time.

About Me: I am an anthropologist, futurist, veteran, and Mom to a transgender teen. I am also disabled and now must rely on donations to fund my work. You can support me with a small donation via PayPal or you can donate on a monthly basis via Patreon. Thank you!

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