Mr. Lovinger had complained internally about lucrative contracts going to Stefan Halper, the FBI informant who spied on the president’s campaign.
Judicial Watch’s lawsuit in U.S. District Court asks a judge to order the Pentagon to release 75 pages of emails and other electronic messages that mention Mr. Lovinger. The messages are in the possession of the Consolidated Adjudications Facility, which has refused to release them.
The facility pulled Mr. Lovinger’s clearance based on an investigation ordered by his boss, James Baker, who directs the Pentagon’s office of net assessment. Mr. Lovinger suspects collusion among Obama-era officials to punish him.
The investigation found that Mr. Lovinger violated procedures for classified information. Mr. Lovinger, through his attorney, Sean Bigley, denies the finding and has filed a whistleblower reprisal complaint with the Pentagon inspector general.
At the time Mr. Lovinger complained about the Halper contracts in 2016, he did not know the academic consultant was a paid FBI informant. News reports disclosed Mr. Halper’s role earlier this year and that he made contact with at least two Trump campaign volunteers. Mr. Lovinger, a lawyer who had worked in the Pentagon general counsel office, complained that the office of net assessment was using Mr. Halper to conduct foreign policy.
Mr. Lovinger is a cause celebre among conservatives, who view him as a victim of “deep state” Obama supporters. He had sought an assignment to work in the Trump White House, but the posting ended after a few months when Mr. Baker moved against his security clearance.
Mr. Bigley filed an open records request for Consolidated Adjudications Facility emails to see whether the investigation was “manipulated” by the Washington Headquarters Services, a Pentagon support agency that oversees facility. It is led by Barbara Westgate, whom the Obama administration put into place shortly before the 2016 elections.
In March, the Pentagon’s freedom of information office told Mr. Bigley that the Consolidated Adjudications Facility located 75 pages of pertinent emails, but the agency’s director, Edward J. Fish, determined that the pages “are exempt from release in their entirety.”
The documents fall under “inter-intra agency information of a pre-decisional, deliberative nature which, if released, could reasonably be expected to interfere with the government’s deliberative process,” the Pentagon said in a letter.
The Judicial Watch lawsuit notes that Mr. Lovinger has filed a whistleblower complaint against Mr. Fish, who “was on written notice of [Mr. Lovinger‘s] whistleblower complaint against him when he withheld the records.”
Washington Headquarters Services had approved the contracts about which Mr. Lovinger had complained.
Mr. Halper received $411,000 in contracts in 2016, and the Long Term Strategy Group, a firm run by Chelsea Clinton’s best friend, has received $11 million in office of net assessment contracts over the years.
“As it turns out, one of the two contractors Mr. Lovinger explicitly warned his ONA superiors about misusing in 2016 was none other than Mr. Halper,” Mr. Bigley’s ethics filing says. “What is now clear is that WHS was the official contracting counter-party on all of ONA’s contracts, including Halper’s and those of the other contractor at issue.”
“First, the DOD CAF (and by extension the WHS CAB) does not have a lack of objectivity that prevents the fair and impartial adjudication of your client’s eligibility for access to classified information,” said the official, referring to the clearance appeals board by its acronym.
“You also assert personal bias by Mrs. Westgate and Mr. Fish that prevents the fair and impartial adjudication of your client’s eligibility for access to classified information,” the official said. “Mrs. Westgate, as the Director of WHS, does not participate in or influence the adjudication of eligibility at the CAF. Similarly, Mr. Fish’s role in the adjudication has been only as Director of the DOD CAF. He did not participate in the adjudication of Mr. Lovinger’s incident report, which was committed entirely to the discretion of certified adjudicators. … I can tell you that she does not have a role and has not been involved in the adjudication of this case.”
Mr. Bigley painted a picture of a far more involved Ms. Westgate: “Even without this litany of facts evidencing WHS cronyism and corruption, it is indisputable that WHS Director Barbara Westgate suspended Mr. Lovinger’s security clearance; Barbara Westgate oversaw DoD CAF’s adjudication and revocation process; Barbara Westgate recommended the termination of Mr. Lovinger’s pay.”
Mr. Bigley has filed for a hearing before the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals, which is outside Ms. Westgate’s domain. A final decision would be made by the Clearance Appeals Board, which is part of Ms. Westgate’s unit, he said.
The attorney wants an independent judge to render the final verdict.
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