Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s security clearance status could cause him issues moving forward as executive chairman at Breitbart News, according to legal experts.
“Any time Breitbart now prints classified information they might now be required to clear it with the government,” Bradley Moss, a partner in the law office of Mark Zaid, whose specialty is national security and security clearance law, told The Hill. “People with Top Secret clearances are bound by a non-disclosure agreement for life.”
Almost immediately after Bannon’s ouster was announced Friday, he resumed his former job as executive chairman at Breitbart, conducting the website’s editorial meeting that evening.
Bannon has said the website is a platform for the alt-right, and his return was hailed by Breitbart News Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow, who noted the White House connection.
“The populist-nationalist movement got a lot stronger today,” said Marlow. “Breitbart gained an executive chairman with his finger on the pulse of the (President Donald) Trump agenda.”
However, even though news outlets often rely on classified information they believe is in the public interest, Bannon’s top secret clearance level leaves him with a legal dilemma.
Susan Hennessey, a former attorney in the Office of General Counsel of the National Security Agency and the now-managing editor at the commentary website Lawfare, said Bannon has obligations to clear information before he can move forward with publishing it. He also has a legal duty to report classified leaks, because of his security level, she said.
Other media personalities, like ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, have had security clearances, but Bannon went from the White House back to Breitbart almost immediately, said Moss.
“If Breitbart suddenly gets a few scoops, it will be interesting to see how the Department of Justice will reply,” she said.