Yesterday, a coworker suggested that, since having “eyes only” security clearance is necessary for being POTUS, anyone who can’t get such clearance (by virtue of being a convicted felon, for example) would be ineligible to become POTUS. I said there’s no way that could be constitutional. The constitution specifies the minimum qualifications for being POTUS and it’s way beyond a government agency’s power to set additional qualifications. My coworker conceded that maybe if D.I.S. refused to grant security clearance to a candidate, this wouldn’t stop the election, but it would still mean that, if the candidate were elected, it would illegal to give him/her any classified information during a briefing. I said this is also unconstitutional because the POTUS is the commander in chief and can’t do that job without receiving classified information. IMHO, D.I.S. would have no choice to grant the POTUS “eyes only” security clearance regardless of whether they think he/she deserved it.
Various senior government officials have access to classified information by virtue of their office, not because they pass a background check. This includes the President. His election to office is the functional equivalent of a background check by a hundred million-plus voters. Presidents do not have security clearances at all, period, end of story.
And there’s no such thing as an “eyes only” security clearance. Perhaps your friend is confused as to whether James Bond films are documentaries.
In theory, we could elect Jonathan Pollard President and he’d have top clearance.
This does demonstrate one of the problems with democracy though, the fact that by necessity elected officials are held to lower standards than those they oversee. That’s a problem that should probably be addressed somehow.
Is it really that simple? By no more than being President and C-in-C, can the Pres just walk on to any Aircraft Carrier or Submarine? Can he go into any military research lab? Any code room?
And with no additional protocol and checking and briefing? I can see, perhaps, that there might be ways for him to obtain the necessary clearance, but I have trouble figuring that it comes, automatically, as a universal pass, to every Federal facility in the U.S…or world!
Bill Hicks used to joke that when a new President is elected, the various bigwigs of the three letter agencies take him to a private cinema in the WH and show him a film of the Kennedy assassination* from an angle he’s never seen before*, one that looks suspiciously like it was taken from the grassy knoll :).
Now, obviously that’s somewhat unlikely to say the least, but I do wonder if the other way around is true, that is to say if a new Prez can ask to see files about every shady thing past administrations have done or ordered, unfiltered - the raw files, memos, minutes, orders and so on. For no reason other than curiosity.