Democratic Rep. Stephanie Murphy (Fla.) has proposed legislation to “disqualify” individuals who protested election fraud or who adhere to “conspiracy theories” against the U.S. government from obtaining or maintaining a federal security clearance, credentials required to hold a wide array of federal jobs.
What are the details?
In the legislation, called the Security Clearance Improvement Act of 2021, Murphy proposes modifying the questionnaire used in security clearance background checks “to include questions regarding an individual’s membership in, or association with, organizations spreading conspiracy theories regarding the Government and participation in the activities occurring at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and for other purposes.”
The goal — according to a press release announcing the legislation — is to root out and “disqualify” from public service those who answer “yes” to the following questions, as stated in the legislation:
(1) ”Have you ever been a member of, associated with, or knowingly engaged in activities conducted by an organization or movement that spreads conspiracy theories and false information about the United States Government?”
(2) ”Did you participate in the activities occurring at the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, or in any similar activity?”
Murphy, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, recently argued in an interview with the Daily Beast that the bill is a way to secure the nation from insider threats like the ones she claims were in play during the Capitol riot.
“What we discovered was that there was a shocking number of people involved in that insurrection who seemingly live normal lives, working in government and law enforcement and the military,” Murphy told the news outlet. “It’s really dangerous for individuals who hold these types of views to receive a security clearance and access to classified information. … If any Americans participated in the Capitol attack, or if they subscribe to these dangerous anti-government views of QAnon, then they have no business being entrusted with our nation’s secrets.”
In announcing the legislation last week, Murphy at times characterized her bill as specifically blocking from national security jobs those who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and those who openly support QAnon. But the bill’s actual language is far more wide-ranging.
A summary statement about the bill describes its intention to force applicants to disclose their involvement in the events of Jan. 6 “or a similar ‘Stop the Steal’ event, or [whether they] have ever been a member of, associated with, or knowingly engaged in activities conducted by an organization or movement that spreads conspiracy theories and false information about the U.S. government.”
Such broad language seems ripe for abuse.
Even Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman whom the Daily Beast describes as “the GOP’s loudest QAnon critic” noted that the language could become a slippery slope, ensnaring people who don’t adhere to the most extreme theories.
“Disinformation, it encapsulates so many ridiculous notions,” Riggleman argued. “If you had someone go to ‘Stop the Steal,’ and thought there were white vans with burning ballots, that’s a bit different than thinking babies were harvested in Epstein’s temple.”