Under fire, Kelly makes changes to White House security clearance process


Chief of staff John Kelly is ordering changes to the White House security clearance process after allegations against an ex-aide.

"The events of the last 10 days have focused huge attention on a clearance process that has been in place for multiple administrations", Kelly said in the memo to White House staff.

Kelly, a former Marine Corps general, proposed a series of tweaks meant to limit temporary security clearances, but which also seemed created to draw a line under the Rob Porter scandal. Kelly said new hires must now complete an SF-86 form - the general form used for security clearance applications - and a "suitability questionnaire", and the White House's Personnel Security office must determine whether someone is suitable for the role before that person is on-board and granted access to the White House grounds.

The issue has been in the spotlight for more than a week after it was revealed that former staff secretary Rob Porter had an interim security clearance that allowed him access to classified material despite allegations of domestic violence by his two ex-wives. "We should - and in the future, must - do better", he wrote.

"In ordinary circumstances, the existing processes we inherited, along with the reforms I have implemented in the past months, have generally worked well", Kelly said in the memo.

In a memo sent to a list of officials that included White House counsel Don McGahn, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director Christopher Wray, Kelly acknowledges that "we should, and in the future, must, do better".

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What's more it relied on the participants revealing the pace they ate, rather than actually scientifically measuring the speed. Although absolute reductions in waist circumference were small, they were greater among the slow and normal speed eaters.

The memo represented the White House's latest effort to move past the Porter scandal, following a week during which White House spokespeople repeatedly contradicted themselves and pointed fingers at the Personnel Security Office, which is staffed by career officials.

The allegations against Porter and the White House's botched handling of them have brought to light a broader problem with security within the Trump administration: a lot of people still haven't been cleared.

Have a goal of receiving a briefing about any "significant derogatory information about senior staff" within 48 hours of discovering it.

The memo says the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Justice Department have offered their cooperation with Kelly's requests in recent days, and that "going forward, all [background investigations] of potential Commissioned Officers should be flagged for the Federal Bureau of Investigation at the outset and then hand-delivered to the White House Counsel personally upon completion". He said, starting next week, temporary clearances for staffers whose background checks have been pending since June 1 or earlier would be discontinued. In November, one official said, one of Porter's ex-girlfriends called McGahn to describe allegations of domestic abuse by the aide.

Kelly goes on to say that office, referred to as "PSO", needs major changes to reduce redundancies and bottlenecks. Facing a credibility crisis of his own, Kelly sought to rewrite his actions, telling staff he had acted more swiftly than widely believed to obtain Porter's resignation.

Kelly had been aware of the allegations since past year, yet Porter was allowed to remain on staff with interim access to classified material at the highest level while his background check was adjudicated.