EXCLUSIVE: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., is calling on the Department of Energy (DOE) to launch an internal investigation into the safety clearance process after the agency fired non-binary nuclear waste official Sam Brinton. significant prison term.
Barrasso — chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — said he is renewing calls to DOE and Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm for answers on the vetting process for agency employees and appointees. The Wyoming Republican said Granholm had repeatedly ignored his previous requests for answers.
“It’s clear as day that criminals should not have security clearances,” Barrasso said. “For several months, I have been demanding an answer from the Department of Energy about their failed security clearance process. Secretary Granholm has had no response.”
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“When people are appointed to important positions with important national security responsibilities, Americans need to believe that they can be trusted,” he continued. “The department needs to do a thorough review of the vetting process. They need to respond to legitimate oversight requests. It’s in our national security interests.”
Barrasso’s comments came after DOE confirmed that Brinton, who had served as DOE’s deputy assistant secretary for spent fuel and waste disposal since June, had left the agency. A spokeswoman for the agency did not elaborate, saying the DOE was not authorized to “comment further on personnel matters.”
Brinton was charged with theft of cargo on two separate occasions and faces up to 15 years in prison.
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In October, law enforcement charged Brinton with stealing a $2,325 suitcase from the baggage carousel at Minneapolis-St. accused of stealing the bag. baggage carousel at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas in July.
Brinton also allegedly stole $1,700 worth of jewelry, $850 worth of clothing and $500 worth of makeup in a check-in bag at the Las Vegas airport.
In both cases, investigators reported that Brinton displayed the same behavior in obtaining the two bags. In each case, Brinton quickly looked around, grabbed the suitcases, and approached the baggage carousel before rushing away, according to security camera footage reviewed by police.
Las Vegas police initially closed their case on the stolen luggage in July after they were unable to identify the suspect. But they reopened the case late last month after media reports suggested Brinton had committed a burglary in Minnesota.
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While Las Vegas investigators were unable to contact Brinton, an MSP Airport Police officer was able to speak with Brinton in a brief phone call.
“If I got the wrong bag, I’m happy to return it, but I don’t have clothes for another person,” Brinton told the officer. – When I opened the bag, these were my clothes.
Brinton then called the officer several hours later, apologizing for not being “completely honest” and blaming fatigue for the robbery.
Meanwhile, in July, Barrasso wrote to Granholm asking him to answer several questions about the DOE’s inspection and security clearance process. He sent another letter to the energy secretary on Nov. 30, demanding a full review of the DOE investigation process after Brinton’s theft was first reported.
Then, on Friday, he sent a third letter to Granholm, again demanding an answer.
“As I stated in my last letter, the Deputy Assistant Secretary’s security clearance should be revoked immediately and the Department should take all necessary steps to immediately terminate Brinton’s employment,” Barrasso wrote. “The failure of the department to remove an individual now charged with multiple felonies from his top positions is shameful, incomprehensible and actively erodes the trust of the public he serves.”
“This is my third direct letter in my unanswered inquiries regarding department personnel and national security,” he added.
Barrasso said Granholm has yet to respond to any inquiries.
The DOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.