Hornberger's Blog

Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
Here's the RSS feed or subscribe to our FFF Email Update to receive Hornberger’s Blog daily.

The Security Clearance Racket


According to the Washington Post, almost 250 former members of the U.S. national-security establishment have come out on side of former CIA Director John Brennan in his war against President Trump.

The issue?

Brennan has severely criticized Trump for his desire to establish friendly relations with Russia. In response, Trump has cancelled Brennan’s “security clearance,” which has caused Brennan’s cohorts in the intelligence establishment to go berserk, with many of them suggesting that Trump is threatening the free speech rights of Brennan and the rest of the national-security establishment.

That’s pure nonsense. Even if Brennan and his national-security cohorts lose their security clearances, they remain as free to criticize Trump as the rest of us who live our lives without security clearances.

What’s this really all about? It’s about one of the most corrupt rackets in the history of the U.S. government.

The national-security branch is the most powerful and influential of the four branches of the federal government. It consists not only of all of the members of the military establishment, CIA, and NSA but also the thousands of contractors and subcontractors that feed off the national-security trough. We are talking about trillions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer money going into this massive government-private-contractor racket.

After milking the taxpayers for 20 years or so by being on military-intelligence dole, national-security personnel retire, at which point many of them immediately go into the warfare state’s private contractor sector to receive, indirectly, even more taxpayer largess for another 10-20 years.

But here’s the kicker: Many of those former military-intelligence people need security clearances to enable them to get paid big bucks at these national-security state contracting companies. That’s one reason why security clearances are so important to these people. If Trump begins cancelling them, that means that some of them might not be able to fleece American taxpayers as effectively as they could with the security clearance.

But let’s look at things in a much larger context. In actuality, the entire national-security establishment  — the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA — is one great big racket and has been ever since the federal government was converted into a national-security state after World War II.

Keep in mind something important: Our American ancestors rejected, fully and completely, a national-security state type of governmental structure. If they had been told after the Constitutional Convention that the Constitution was calling into existence a national-security state, there is no possibility that they would have accepted the deal, in which case they would have continued operating under the Articles of Confederation, under which the federal government didn’t even have the power to tax. It was only because the federal government was set up as a limited-government republic that our ancestors approved the Constitution.

Our ancestors were fiercely opposed to what they called “standing armies.” What they meant by that term was what we today call a “national-security state” — a government that has a vast, permanent military-intelligence establishment, one with the omnipotent power to round people up and incarcerate, torture, and assassinate them, including Americans. That’s why the federal government was established as a limited-government republic, one that had a small, basic army but no vast, permanent military establishment, Pentagon, CIA, or NSA.

The big conversion from a limited-government republic to a national-security state came in the late 1940s. What was the justification for this revolutionary transformation? Well, that’s one of the real ironies in all the anti-Russia crusade that the national-security establishment has launched against Trump.

After World War II, Americans were told that despite the fact that they had just defeated the Nazis, they could not rest because they now had a new official enemy, the Soviet Union, whose principal member was Russia. Interestingly enough, the Soviets had been America’s partner and ally during World War II.

“The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” U.S. officials breathlessly told Americans after World War II and throughout the Cold War. They are coming to get us — to invade our land and conquer us, enabling them to take over the federal government. The Reds would then run the public schools, Social Security, Medicare, and the Interstate Highway System. Unless the federal government was converted into a national-security state, U.S. officials said, the country would inevitably fall to the Reds.

A national-security state always needs official enemies. That’s how it keeps the citizenry all riled up and afraid and, therefore, acquiescent and submissive. Sometimes it’s even necessary to gin up the official enemies.

Consider, for example, North Korea and Cuba, which, like the United States, are also national-security states. Their official enemy is the Pentagon and the CIA, which are committed to regime change in both countries. North Korean and Cuban officials keep their citizenries riled up and afraid of the threat of invasion that the U.S. national-security establishment poses to their regimes.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone, of course, that throughout the Cold War, the U.S. national-security establishment kept Americans all riled up and afraid by using Russia (i.e., the Soviet Union) and, to a certain extent, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, and China as America’s official enemy.

Americans were promised that as soon as the Cold War was over, they could have their limited-government republic back. But guess what. When the Cold War unexpectedly came to an end in 1989-1991, Americans didn’t get their limited-government republic back. By this time, the national-security establishment had become too powerful and too deeply embedded in American life. It wasn’t about to voluntarily dismantle even if the Cold War was now over.

That’s when it went into the Middle East and provoked hornets’ nests (See here and here.), knowing full well of the probability of terrorist retaliation. That’s how we got the never-ending “war on terrorism,” as well as the forever wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and elsewhere. It was all designed to produce new official enemies, such as terrorists, ISIS, Muslims, and even Afghan drug dealers to justify the ever-growing racket of the national-security establishment.

But here’s the other irony. Today, the U.S. national-security establishment is using Russia as an official enemy, not because Russia is going to invade and conquer us, like they supposedly were going to do during the Cold War, but instead because Russia is trying to establish friendly relations with the United States. Imagine that! What a horrible thing to do, right! Russia should know its place and play its role in this racket — as an official enemy of the United States, so that the U.S. national-security establishment can continue its never ending racket of scaring and fleecing the American people.

If Americans want to rid our nation of its forever wars and the massive corruption that has come with a national-security state, the solution goes far beyond cancelling a few security clearances. The solution is to return to America’s founding principles by dismantling the totalitarian structure known as a national-security state and restoring a limited-government republic to our land.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.