Retired Adm. William McRaven, the man who oversaw the 2011 Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden, issued a stunning rebuke of President Donald Trump's decision to revoke the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan on Thursday, defending the former spy chief as "one of the finest public servants I have ever known."
William Harry McRaven is a retired United States Navy admiral, who served as the ninth commander of the United States Special Operations Command from August 8, 2011, to August 28, 2014. From 2015 to 2018, he was the chancellor of The University of Texas System.
He was designated as the first director of the NATO Special Operations Forces Coordination Centre, where he was charged with enhancing the capabilities and interoperability of all NATO Special Operations Forces.
McRaven is credited for organizing and overseeing the execution of Operation Neptune Spear, the special ops raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2, 2011.
The retired admiral gained widespread fame during his 2014 commencement speech at his alma mater the University of Texas in Austin, during which he told the graduating students that, “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”
The statement became a social media meme and led to a book McRaven authored, titled, “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…And Maybe The World.”
An outspoken retired Navy admiral, McRaven has issued a fiery open letter to President Donald Trump over his revoking the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan, comparing his tactics to those who led communist witch hunts in the 1950s.
In an op-ed published by the Washington Post, McRaven, a former Navy SEAL who led US Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014, not only called Brennan "a man of unparalleled integrity," but volunteered to have his own security clearance revoked in an act of solidarity.
"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don't know him," McRaven wrote.
"Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency," he added.
His comments come just one day after Trump announced his decision to revoke Brennan's security clearance, marking an unprecedented use of a president's authority over the classification system to strike back at one of his prominent critics.
The revocation has been seen by many as an unprecedented act of retribution, in part for Brennan’s public criticisms of Trump. Top officials are commonly allowed to keep their clearances so they may continue to advise on security matters and hold certain jobs that require such clearances.
McRaven, who resigned as chancellor of the University of Texas in Austin earlier this year, is widely respected among the tens of thousands of active and retired special operators and his message will likely resonate within that community.
“Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs,” McRaven said.
“A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization,” he said.
“A good leader sets the example for others to follow.”
“A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself.”
“Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities,” McRaven said.
“Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation. If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken,” McRaven said. “The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be.”
Our assessment is that the reactions of Trump seem to be a broader effort to suppress freedom of speech and punish critics. We feel that attempts to tarnish the names of outstanding intelligence professionals like Brennan will worry many Americans, including those who are entrusted with the task of protecting the country.
We believe that the support that Brennan has received from Admiral McRaven and others speaks of the willingness of outstanding Americans to stand up for principles and not succumb to pressures. We strongly believe that this bodes well for American democracy.