Hagerty Voices Serious Concerns About Department Of Defense Under Secretary Nominee

U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty Speaks On The Senate Floor, Expressing Concerns About Biden’s Controversial Nominee For Under Secretary Of Defense Of Policy, Colin Kahl.

U.S. Capitol Building At Night

Photo: Hagerty During Speech On Senate Floor

Photo Credit: Office of U.S. Senator Bill Hagerty

Published April 22, 2021

Washington, D.C. -United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN)— who requested the FBI conduct an immediate investigation into whether Colin Kahl, President Joe Biden’s nominee to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, improperly disclosed classified information— released the following statement after Senate Democrats required the Vice President to break a tie vote to advance Kahl’s deadlocked nomination to the Senate floor: 

“Colin Kahl’s lack of judgment, and his reckless disregard for security protocols has resulted in a deadlocked Senate, requiring the Vice President of the United States to break the tie—the first time she’s been required to do so on a Biden nominee. 

Dr. Kahl’s disregard for our national security is disqualifying in the eyes of all Senate Republicans, and I once again strongly urge the White House to recognize their nominee’s weak standing in the eyes of 50 Senators and withdraw Dr. Kahl,” Hargerty said. 

Kahl will require two more floor votes to be confirmed by the Senate—a procedural cloture vote and final confirmation vote. 

On the Senate floor yesterday, April 21st, Hagerty delivered remarks addressing his concerns about President Joe Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary of Defense of Policy. 

Hagerty’s Remarks: 

“Madam President, I rise today to discuss my serious concerns about the judgment and temperament of Colin Kahl, the controversial nominee to be Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, the third highest ranking position at the Department of Defense. 

On April 13, 2021, I— along with 17 of my Senate colleagues— wrote to FBI Director Christopher Wray requesting an investigation into whether Kahl had improperly disclosed classified information. We also asked the Majority Leader not to advance Kahl’s nomination on the floor until the FBI completes its investigation— yet here we stand. 

The 18 Senators, who signed these letters, include Senators who sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

As Senators, the Constitution charges us with providing Advice and Consent. And so I stand here today because the Senate deserves to have this question answered so that we may properly discharge our duties. 

I fear my Democratic colleagues want to force this nominee through before we know all of the facts— facts, which may be incredibly damning to his nomination. 

Here is what we do know: As a U.S. Government employee with a Top Secret security clearance, Colin Kahl signed a Classified Information Non-Disclosure Agreement. 

In fact, he likely signed many of them during his time in government. 

This document binds government employees, in perpetuity, to protect classified information under U.S. laws, regulations, and executive orders. 

These classified information non-disclosure agreements don’t come with footnotes. They don’t come with fine print that says you are only obligated to protect classified information when it’s a President you like or when the President belongs to the political party you agree with. 

Mr. Kahl signed this document to protect classified information in perpetuity. Period. 

Yet rather than uphold the oath that he took to his nation and to his government, Kahl decided to recklessly disclose sensitive information to score political points on Twitter. 

Some of the information that Kahl appears to have leaked—internal deliberations of the National Security Council—is of a category to which even Senators and Senate staff with the highest security clearances are almost always denied access. 

In December 2017, Kahl publicly bragged that he confirmed the disclosure to the media of classified planning for military options in North Korea with “multiple sources inside the Administration.” 

Kahl tweeted: “There is a contingent at the White House that believes a limited strike is viable and the US can control escalation by threatening regime change if Kim Jong Un retaliates.” 

Continuing on that same thread, Mr. Kahl states: “I’ve heard this separately from multiple sources inside Adminstration [sic].” 

In other words, if the intelligence services of North Korea, China, Russia, Iran, and other adversaries were working to corroborate the accuracy of this leaked classified information, Kahl saved them the trouble by working with “multiple sources inside the Administration” to confirm this leaked classified information—publicly, no less. 

Let me put this in a personal perspective. When Kahl tweeted these leaks in December 2017, I was serving as U.S. Ambassador to Japan. At a time when North Korea had launched two intercontinental ballistic missiles over Japan and also detonated its first thermonuclear warhead, putting the lives of my family, my fellow American diplomats, and more than 50,000 active duty U.S. military and their families— all of us living within range of North Korea—directly in harm’s way. 

At a time when tensions couldn’t have been higher, Colin Kahl was willing to expose vital information to North Korea—and risk American lives. 

All of this just to score a few political points. Reckless. 

In February and March 2017, Kahl leaked details about classified NSC meetings on counterterrorism operations in Yemen that he “confirmed with 4 separate staffers in the room”.  

In short, Kahl used social media and other forums to leak classified information, to brag about his ability to get U.S. government employees to confirm with him the veracity of leaked classified information. 

Whoever holds the third highest ranking position at the Department of Defense must be someone who completely understands and appreciates the important nature of sensitive information and is dedicated to safeguarding it. 

Yet— rather than respect the responsibility that came with his access to sensitive material, Kahl recklessly shared this privileged information on Twitter for the world to see merely to scratch a partisan itch. 

If we let this nominee slide through under these conditions, what message does it send to other ambitious national security types? 

Doesn’t it say that leaking classified information for political reasons will be rewarded? 

Doesn’t it encourage further disclosure of classified information? 

Doesn’t it play right into our adversaries’ hands by showing that our internal political divisions can be exploited to obtain the most sensitive information our government keeps? 

As my Senate colleagues and I explained in our letter to FBI Director Wray: ‘The Under Secretary of Defense for Policy plays a key role in matters crucial to America’s national security and should be held by a person of sound judgment and temperament—someone who understands and respects the need to safeguard classified and information and to keep national security affairs distinct and separate from partisan political activities.’ 

‘Kahl’s growing record of apparent mishandling of classified information and his evasive response regarding this issue fall far short of the standard required for holding one of our nation’s top national security positions.’ 

‘By apparently soliciting or otherwise receiving classified information from U.S. government officials serving in national security roles and repeatedly posting such information on social media websites, Kahl demonstrated disregard for security protocols that are designed to protect our national security interests.’ 

Kahl has shown that he is unfit to serve and his nomination should not move forward until the FBI has completed the investigation requested by myself and 17 of my Senate colleagues. 

I hope all of my colleagues want to see answers to these important questions as well before we advance the nomination. 

Madam President I yield the floor and suggest the absence of quorum.” 

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