Sanford's Affair Might Have Jeopardized Top-Secret Clearance

The governor was required to disclose relationships with foreign nationals.


By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford's love-struck romp in Buenos Aires with his Argentine "soul mate" wasn't just a threat to his marriage, job, and presidential aspirations. It also jeopardizes his Department of Homeland Security clearance and raises new questions about his candor on the steamy affair. Didn't know the Republican had one? Well, as a chief of state and head of the South Carolina National Guard, Sanford has a top-secret security status that lets him in on classified information such as possible terrorist threats and emergency tips. But with that need to know come intelligence community rules of conduct, a key one being that relationships with foreigners must be revealed. The reason: Those in the know can leave themselves open to blackmail from rival intelligence services about a compromising dalliance.

"Agency policy requires our officers to document their relationships with foreign nationals," a CIA official tells Whispers. "The impact those relationships may have on employment very much depends on the specific circumstances and whether the information is reported accurately and in a timely manner." Bart Bechtel, a former CIA clandestine officer, adds, "CIA officers are required to report such relationships. Failure to do so can easily be grounds for termination and loss of clearances. In some cases, even when reported, an officer may lose clearances and be terminated." It happens. Homeland Security canceled former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's after he was arrested on corruption charges.

Sanford's security status, however, remains unclear. A spokesman didn't return calls, and Homeland Security, while confirming that it issues the clearances, would not comment on Sanford, also a captain in the Air Force Reserves.

Illustration by Ed Wexler for USN&WR

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