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Questions about Huma Abedin
A State Department adviser has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Huma Abedin and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2011

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Andrew C. McCarthy

These connections are not contrived or weightless — like when the Left wanted to keep Samuel Alito off the Supreme Court because, 40 years ago, he was a member of “Concerned Alumni of Princeton.” Of course, knowing members of an organization whose goals include conquest of the West and destruction of Israel is not a crime. Nor is it a crime to have close relatives who are either members of, or associated with members of, such an organization. Again, however, no one is accusing Huma Abedin of a crime.

The five House conservatives, instead, are asking questions that adults responsible for national security should feel obliged to ask: In light of Ms. Abedin’s family history, is she someone who ought to have a security clearance, particularly one that would give her access to top-secret information about the Brotherhood? Is she, furthermore, someone who may be sympathetic to aspects of the Brotherhood’s agenda, such that Americans ought to be concerned that she is helping shape American foreign policy?

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Now, Senator McCain is no stranger to smear. No need to confirm that with Mr. ElBaradei; we’ve watched for years as he has slandered, for example, critics of his advocacy for illegal aliens as “nativists” seeking to reprise Jim Crow laws. Nevertheless, since McCain purports to be a tireless guardian of our security, one would think he’d appreciate the distinction between a smear, on the one hand, and a routine application of security-clearance standards, on the other.

The State Department is particularly wary when it comes to the category of “foreign influence” — yes, it is a significant enough concern to warrant its own extensive category in background investigations. No criminal behavior need be shown to deny a security clearance; access to classified information is not a right, and reasonable fear of “divided loyalties” is more than sufficient for a clearance to be denied.

The guidelines probe ties to foreign countries and organizations because hostile elements could “target United States citizens to obtain protected information” or could be “associated with a risk of terrorism” — note: The Brotherhood checks both these boxes. Thus, when someone is proposed for a sensitive position, it is necessary to consider “conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying.” These, the State Department tells us, include “contact with a foreign family member, business or professional associate, friend or other person who is a citizen or resident in a foreign country if that contact creates a heightened risk of foreign exploitation, inducement, pressure, or coercion.”

Furthermore, in light of the Brotherhood’s well-known abhorrence of the United States, it is also pertinent that State’s guidelines raise alarms if a person seeking access to classified information has an “association or sympathy” with people who seek to overthrow our government, or even with people who just seek to prevent Americans from exercising their constitutional rights. The Brotherhood does not just aim to upend our system; it would restrict our rights, such as free expression, to the extent they contradict sharia.

In his diatribe, McCain speciously asserted that the GOP conservatives had failed to cite “an action, a decision, or a public position that Huma has taken while at the State Department” that showed she was either “promoting anti-American activities within our government” or having a “direct impact” on harmful policies. Of course, to assess a person’s fitness for a sensitive position, background investigators are not restricted to asking whether someone has committed some transgression. Their main job is to find out whether there are circumstances and competing allegiances that could tempt someone to take positions or actions that could harm the United States. That is why, for example, we have hearings before we confirm federal judges — we don’t just hand them a gavel and hope for the best.

In addition, as McCain knows, Ms. Abedin is an adviser, not a policymaker. She gives advice to the secretary of state. Unless you were in the room with the two of them, you’d never be able to demonstrate what “direct impact” the adviser was having. Again, that’s why people are supposed to be vetted before they get these sensitive positions and before they get access to the nation’s secrets.



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