A veteran manager in the White House office that processes security clearances has been suspended amid allegations she made against her boss that he endangered national security by breaking the law and flouting security procedures.
The supervisor, Carl Kline, was also accused by the suspended official, Tricia Newbold, of rampant discrimination based on her sex and disability. Her suspension was first reported by NBC News.
Newbold, who has worked in the White House Security Office for 19 years, was informed Wednesday that she is being suspended for 14 days for failing to implement and follow new procedures and policies put in place by Kline when he was her supervisor.
The suspension, Newbold alleges, is a reprisal for a complaint she filed against Kline accusing him of aggressive behavior and discriminating against her as a woman with a rare form of dwarfism. Her allegations include that he placed files she needed to work on out of her reach.
In a statement released by her attorney, Newbold accuses Kline – who a US official says has since left the White House for the Pentagon – of “gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, and violations of laws, rules, and regulations” and “reckless security practices.”
Kline did not respond to an emailed request for comment, nor did the White House.
Kline, according to Newbold, repeatedly overruled her team’s determinations that a person should not receive a security clearance. One of them, according to NBC News, was the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner.
Newbold confirmed that there were around 30 cases deemed “unfavorable” by the adjudicators in the Office of Administration, where Newbold has worked since 2000, that were overruled and approved by Kline.
As a manager, all the files went through Newbold for secret and top secret clearance and then were passed on to Kline. Files for candidates for a higher security clearance, known as SCI, would then go to the CIA for final approval. Kushner, for example, did not get sensitive compartmented information clearance (SCI) from the CIA despite being approved by Kline, according to The Washington Post.
“I know for a fact the way [Kline] overruled adjudications he did not use proper guidelines or mitigating factors. That’s in violation,” Newbold told CNN, adding that Kline’s decisions were not consistent with an executive order with guidelines from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
A memo from Kline’s boss, the chief security officer, Crede Bailey, alleges that Newbold’s two-week suspension, without pay, is in response to her “constant defiance of authority, failure to follow instructions, and failure to supervise.” Bailey accuses Newbold of going “around your supervisor to the CIA in defiance of his authority.”
That alleged insubordination and reference to the CIA, Newbold says, is about the way she formatted and packaged the files to be sent to the CIA, which Kline had told her to do differently.
“You have someone [Kline] who completely broke the law and went against executive orders,” Newbold alleges, while any of her infractions, she claims, paled in comparison and were for the benefit of security and efficiency.
In addition to accusations that Kline broke the law, Newbold claims he fostered an environment of toxic discrimination not just against women but against her in particular because of her short stature (she stands 4 feet, 2 inches). He was so aggressive and angry, she says, that a colleague told her, “I thought he was going to hit you.”
Kline moved the files Newbold needed access to, she says, to higher shelves in the basement that she could not reach. Some were piled into boxes she couldn’t lift or moved to a more secure room – known as a SCIF – where she couldn’t reach the phones or the buzzer to get into their suite, Newbold says.
“It was almost like a game. It was disgusting,” Newbold said. “I was completely humiliated. It was the first time in my life I haven’t been able to do my job because I couldn’t reach it.”
On top of the alleged discrimination, Newbold was angered by how Kline was managing the core role of the office – to grant or deny access to some of the country’s most sensitive information.”
“It got to the point that I would just render my decision and highlight why I came to that decision and would give it to him and we wouldn’t even discuss it further,” Newbold said.
“Because if I sent him an email saying, ‘Hey, sir, can you please explain to me how you rendered a “favorable,” ’ he would never respond. So I didn’t even challenge it anymore, I just made my decisions and monitored the ones that he overrode.”
Meanwhile, Newbold says, staffing was slashed. A year ago, she oversaw eight people working on clearances. Currently, Newbold says, she has just one adjudicator under her, a staffing shortage that is creating a backlog and she believes endangers national security.
“It’s definitely having an impact,” Newbold says. “His decisions and his lack of acceptance that we need more staff definitely negatively impacted our office.”
Newbold has detailed the alleged discrimination and Kline’s mismanagement in a lengthy Equal Employment Opportunity complaint; a complaint she now says is directly responsible for her suspension, which came right after she went back to work following the partial government shutdown. The letter of suspension from her boss, Bailey, denies it has anything to do with her complaint or “alleged whistleblowing activity.”
“It’s all a setup,” says Newbold’s lawyer Ed Passman. “It’s all part of reprisal against my client. There’s absolutely no merit to it whatsoever.”