Allen West, the Tea-Party backed GOP candidate for Congress in Florida’s 22nd district, is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. He apparently believes this entitles him to a security clearance higher than any clearance held by President Obama. He told an audience in Pompano, FL last week that: “I still retain a secret security clearance. And I tell you, if you look at the application for a security clearance, I have a clearance that even the president of the United States cannot obtain because of my background.” Watch it:
PolitiFact Florida performed a rather unnecessary fact-check, and categorized the claim as a “pants on fire” falsehood. PolitiFact called Steven Aftergood, a national security and intelligence specialist with the Federation of American Scientists, who explained: “The president is the one who established the security clearance system by executive order. Therefore it is nonsensical to speak of clearances higher than what the president has. As head of the executive branch and commander in chief of the armed forces, there is no information in government that could be denied to the president for security reasons if he determined he needed access to that information.”
West’s campaign doubled down on the outrageous claim when contacted by PolitiFact, however, and added several smears against President Obama. Josh Grodin, the campaign manager, explained that West meant that he obtained his clearance through a rigorous screening and security process, while Obama simply claimed his by winning the popular vote — and that Obama would not have obtained any clearance otherwise. “The fact that (Obama) admitted to cocaine use, travel to unauthorized countries years before, and his associations with Louis Farrakhan and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he probably would not have been granted a security clearance,” he said.
As ThinkProgress has noted, West has a record of actual transgressions that could harm whatever security clearance he may or may not hold. (PolitiFact could not confirm that West still retained one). He resigned from the military while facing a court martial over the brutal interrogation of an Iraqi man: according to his own testimony, during a military hearing, West watched four of his men beat the suspect, and West said he personally threatened to kill the man. According to military prosecutors, West followed up on his threat by taking the man outside and firing a 9mm pistol near his head, in order to make the man believe he would be shot.