A senior administration official tells ABC News that Robin Townley, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn's pick for the NSC's senior director for Africa, had his request for special security clearance denied by the CIA.
The move will prevent Townley from being able to serve in the NSC post. Townley currently maintains an active top secret security clearance, but it was his request was for "Sensitive Compartmented Information" clearance that was rejected, the source says. The post is one of nearly two dozen senior director positions on the NSC tailored to a specific focus or geographical area; many of those positions currently remain vacant with no announced appointees.
The news of Townley's clearance being denied was first reported by POLITICO.
Townley is a former Marine intel officer and a close ally of Flynn's, but the official says Townley "ran afoul of some people" in the CIA and the move is a retaliation against him as well as Flynn for their adversarial attitude against the CIA. Townley was also a member of the NSC landing team during the transition.
In response to the senior administration official's accusations, a U.S. official familiar with the security clearance process tells ABC "the notion that a federal agency would intentionally deny a security clearance to someone simply because they are friends with Mike Flynn is absolute nonsense."
The new spat comes at a time when Flynn faces increasing scrutiny over whether he misled top officials about the content of his conversations with the Russian ambassador regarding sanctions imposed by the Obama administration over Russian meddling in the U.S. election.
Neither the CIA nor the NSC press offices responded to requests for comment.