The retired U.S. Navy admiral who led the mission to kill Osama bin Laden is defending former CIA director John Brennan after President Donald Trump revoked his security clearance earlier this week.
In an op-ed for the Washington Post on Thursday, retired Adm. William McRaven asks Trump to revoke his own security clearance in solidarity with Brennan, a frequent critic of the president.
"Few Americans have done more to protect this country than John. He is a man of unparalleled integrity, whose honesty and character have never been in question, except by those who don’t know him," McRaven wrote. "Therefore, I would consider it an honor if you would revoke my security clearance as well, so I can add my name to the list of men and women who have spoken up against your presidency."
McRaven, a former Navy SEAL, led the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command from 2011 to 2014 before leaving the military. He notably oversaw the 2011 mission that killed the former head of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, in Pakistan.
"Like most Americans, I had hoped that when you became president, you would rise to the occasion and become the leader this great nation needs," McRaven wrote, addressing Trump. "A good leader tries to embody the best qualities of his or her organization. A good leader sets the example for others to follow. A good leader always puts the welfare of others before himself or herself. Your leadership, however, has shown little of these qualities."
"Through your actions, you have embarrassed us in the eyes of our children, humiliated us on the world stage and, worst of all, divided us as a nation," he continued. "If you think for a moment that your McCarthy-era tactics will suppress the voices of criticism, you are sadly mistaken. The criticism will continue until you become the leader we prayed you would be."
McRaven has criticized Trump before, saying the president's characterization of the press as "the enemy of the American people" is the “greatest threat to democracy” he’s ever seen.
The retired admiral, who went on to become the chancellor for the University of Texas system, made the comment during a speech at the University of Texas - Austin campus last year, according to the Daily Texan.
Mixing the military with politics
Many of the military's former top leadership have not-so-quietly waded into American politics.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn campaigned for Trump before briefly serving as his national security adviser, while retired Marine Corps Gen. John Allen campaigned on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
John Kirby, a retired Navy admiral, and James Clapper, a retired Air Force general and former Director of National Intelligence, frequently appear on CNN with their own analysis of the current administration. Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, who also ran the NSA and CIA, is another vocal critic.
But Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general himself, has advocated against these "formers" revealing their political persuasions so publicly.
"I think that it is wrong in America, the United States of America, to say as a retired general or admiral to come out in a public position supporting one candidate or another," Mattis said during a speech in South America this week. "The reason is, we do not want to politicize the officer corps, and I don’t want anyone thinking when they have a general in the room 'well he retires next year, I wonder what he’s going to do after that.' So that’s why I took no part in the campaign. I don’t believe I should."
There are military policies that restrict political activities for service members, especially when they are in uniform. But those restrictions go away upon retirement.
Still, more than half of former U.S. presidents served in the military at some point during their lives. The last retired general elected to office was Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.