SUMMERVILLE, SC ( Associated Press) — After losing a high-profile bid For the 2018 South Carolina congressional seat, Republican Katie Arrington He took a job at the Defense Department, where he focused on securing military supply chains, ensuring that thousands of companies that contracted with the federal government were implementing cybersecurity protocols.
Arrington’s civil servant works as chief information officer for the Office of Acquisition and Sustainability, a feature he characterized as his longtime passion for cyber security and defense. But as she seeks to revive her political career, Arrington’s time at the Pentagon is becoming a central issue in her campaign.
Freshman GOP Representative Nancy Mays, Arrington, whom Arrington hopes to defeat in South Carolina’s June 14 primary, is asking Arrington to take a lie detector test to find out why she lost access to classified information. Meanwhile, the mess-funded, anti-Arrington website has sections labeled “Leaks Classified Information” and “Busted: Loses Every Security Clearance.”
This dispute is likely to come to the fore in the debate between the two on Monday.
This episode captures the intensity of one of the most-watched GOP congressional primaries this year. Former President Donald Trump, who backed Mace in 2020, has backed Arrington’s bid to oust him, Angered by the incumbent’s criticism of him, including his role in instigating the rebellion at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021. The result will be another barometer of Trump’s influence within the GOP as he weighs in on another potential White House bid.
Mace’s campaign has argued that Arrington’s evacuation position is fair game for someone seeking to represent a congressional district with a heavily military population. But in an interview, Arrington insisted that Mace was “lying” about the issue. She is stepping up efforts to denounce the attacks, including providing affidavits to the Associated Press from an unnamed intelligence officer who worked with her, saying she’s never worried about dealing with classified information. .
Arrington’s security clearance was suspended and she was placed on leave from the Pentagon in May 2021 after officials accused her of improper disclosure of classified information.
Arrington says the incident centered on her communications with a contractor, whose name had surfaced in a top-secret briefing she received — an “unmasking” she said she would hold until the information got into her hands. It had already happened.
In interviews, she said that during her daily briefing, an intelligence officer briefed her on a possible problem with the contractor. According to Arrington, both he and officials were surprised that the contractor’s name had been included in the information, but acknowledged that a higher-up had made that determination.
Being told that the company had already been notified of the issue, Arrington said it followed protocol, before calling the company to see a supervisor to see if it could assist. – A call that Arrington said started an investigation that resulted in his suspension.
The intelligence officer reporting has come forward to support Arrington. In an April 27 affidavit shared with the Associated Press, the officer — who has not been identified because of her continued employment as an intelligence briefer — wrote that she never worried about Arrington’s access to classified information. Was.
“I didn’t see him misrepresent any classified information or documents from that program,” the briefer wrote in a sworn statement. “I am at a complete loss based on my specific knowledge of the matter as to what the security breach was allegedly done.”
In the affidavit, the briefer also noted that superiors told him that Arrington “committed a security breach by using unsecured means to share information with a defense contractor” and asked him “a series of questions” about Arrington’s political affiliations. Asked, which Arrington argues was already widely done. Known, given his previous Congress bid.
Arrington also said that his politics came to the fore at the Pentagon soon after the Biden administration came to power. In early 2021, Arrington said she asked her new supervisor, Jesse Salazar, how much cybersecurity experience she had, to which she says Salazar replied, “Absolutely none.”
“But the part that scared me,” Arrington told the Associated Press, “was the question that asked me back: ‘Why are you still here? I thought we fired all you guys.'”
Although Arrington had a political background, he was classified as a civil servant at the Pentagon, making such remarks inappropriate, she said.
“I got blacklisted literally because I was a Republican, because I was associated with Trump,” she said.
The Pentagon has declined to comment on Arrington’s employment, citing a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit over communications related to his suspension, and the Associated Press was unable to confirm his characterization of political interactions with Pentagon officials. Is.
In response to that lawsuit — which included Arrington’s claim that Pentagon officials “did not want to serve in a senior position within the Biden administration because of his past relationship with President Trump” — Defense Department officials repeatedly Wrote that the allegations “contain plaintiffs” featuring alleged background information, not allegations of fact relevant to the settlement of claims at issue in this FOIA action, which would require a response.
According to Arrington, the briefing officer asked that his affidavit be declassified so that Arrington could share it, while his Freedom of Information Act claim moves against the Defense Department.
Arrington’s sanctions investigation lasted throughout 2021, with Arrington suing the Pentagon in October, accusing officials of failing to take “any significant substantive steps to advance their investigation.” According to Arrington’s subsequent FOIA lawsuit, filed in April, the Pentagon claimed to have paid his attorney’s fees in January, but did not provide “any useful substantive facts for Arrington to actually respond to the allegations”. .
However, at no point has his approval been completely revoked, Mace claims. And according to Arrington, he retained his department-issued laptop, cellphone, secure information access device and diplomatic passport that the Associated Press had seen at his home.
The National Security Agency sent comment on his controversy to the Pentagon, which declined to comment on the allegation.
Arrington resigned a few days after her job was terminated in February, later launching her own campaign against Mays.
Meg Kinnard can be reached here http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP,