As the White House responds to reports that former aide Rob Porter was not the only official potentially working with highly sensitive information without first being properly vetted, Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy introduced a bill Wednesday to try to make the law require necessary security clearances.
Murphy’s bill, her office stated in a news release, aims to codify what she called the “Coats Rule,” referencing Dan Coats, President Donald Trump‘s director of national intelligence, who declared in congressional testimony this week that individuals with interim security clearances should have limited access to secret information.
Murphy, of Winter Park, who once was a national security specialist with the U.S. Department of Defense, titled her bill the “Protect America’s Secrets Act.” She also serves on the House Armed Service Committee and is co-chair of the National Security Task Force for the House Democratic Caucus.
“As our country faces unprecedented cyber and intelligence threats, protecting our most sensitive information must be one of our top national security priorities,” Murphy said. “The Coats Rule’ is simple: individuals in the White House and throughout the federal government who receive interim security clearances should have limited access to highly sensitive classified information. As a former national security specialist, I know America’s adversaries won’t hesitate to exploit an employee’s undisclosed vulnerabilities through whatever means necessary, including blackmail.”
The bill intends to prohibit any U.S. government employee, including an employee working in the Executive Office of the President, from being granted access to “highly sensitive” information unless and until that employee has been cleared through an appropriate investigation. The issue arose last week with reports that Porter had attended highly-classified briefings and handled classified documents without clearance.
The term “highly sensitive” is defined in law and encompasses the United States’ most closely-held secrets. The Coats Rule would prevent individuals with interim security clearances from gaining access to the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified summary prepared by the intelligence community that provides the president and a small group of executive branch officials with an update on world events and our nation’s most sensitive intelligence activities.
“As someone who has previously obtained one of the highest security clearances while working on special operations at the Department of Defense, I know that protecting this kind of sensitive information is necessary to keeping our troops, our intelligence officers, and our nation safe,” Murphy said. “My bill does not prevent a president from selecting advisors of their choice; however, it does require that these White House aides pass a background investigation and achieve a permanent security clearance before accessing our nation’s most sensitive information, including the Presidential Daily Brief.