Guest column: Something wrong with security clearances |

Guest column: Something wrong with security clearances

Jim Ritchie
Guest Column

Currently, the national media is rife with reports, commentaries and opinion concerning security clearances, or the lack thereof, within the White House and the senior appointees and advisors of President Donald Trump.

It occurs to me that readers, citizens and voters who have not served in the military or government agencies may not have a clear understanding of what is required to receive and operate with a security clearance.

My personal experience may offer some enlightenment. 

As a teenage freshman Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) student at UC Berkeley, I received a “Confidential, No Foreign” clearance. That basically let me onto naval ships and facilities. Meh.

As an active duty Marine Corps second lieutenant, I received a “Secret” clearance. I did do “special operations” long-range reconnaissance, but that was really not significant during the Vietnam War years and not germane to the clearance. 

So here may be the real insight: Some of your local readers may recall that I was a local Truckee dentist, a two-year member of the Truckee School Board, and a one-year member of the Nevada County Grand Jury. Not particularly challenging for national security considerations.

However, I was concurrently a dental officer in the Army Reserve. When I served in Special Forces (3/12th SFG/A) my clearance was upgraded to “Top Secret.” No issues, no problem.

When activated for duty in Bosnia with my Civil Affairs unit, I received a “Top Secret, Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)” clearance. I was not performing as a dentist, but come on — small-town dentist with a TS (SCI) — this is not director of the CIA, but a significantly high and restricted clearance.

So consider: Kushner, Porter, and innumerable Trump advisors and appointees with access to the very highest levels of government secrets, security, and influence cannot and will not receive the security clearances of a 17-year-old kid or your local dentist. There is something really wrong there.

Jim Ritchie is a resident of Truckee.