‘Swinging’ US general kept security clearance until sex scandal broke, months after Pentagon found out

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 12:32pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 September, 2016, 10:26pm

The US Army waited to suspend the security clearance of a two-star general fired for his role in a sordid sex scandal until a day after revelations of his double life were published last month, the Army has acknowledged.

Major General David Haight had been in charge of plans and operations for the Pentagon’s European Command until an Army investigation in April determined he’d been involved in an 11-year-long extramarital affair with allegations of a “swinger lifestyle.” Haight also was found to have misused his government cellphone and email to conduct the affair.

Haight was stripped of his post and brought back to Washington. However, Haight maintained his clearance to review classified information five months after the Army inspector general’s findings about his double life were substantiated, documents show.

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Moreover, Haight did not take a lie-detector test for his sensitive post in Europe because it was not a requirement for his job, according to two Army officials who are not authorised to speak publicly about the screening procedures.

There is, however, no indication that Haight was the target of espionage, the officials say.

Requiring generals and admirals to take polygraph tests would subject hundreds more government officials to polygraph tests, slowing an already time-consuming process. Further, the National Academy of Sciences has raised questions about the accuracy of lie detectors.

But the Haight case shows the need for greater scrutiny of those with access to the nation’s top secrets, said Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“We’ve got to take a holistic look at the entire process and determine how best to fill gaps that have become painfully evident in the system we’re using to ensure we can continue to trust those privy to the highest levels of secrecy in our government,“ said McCaskill, who has been critical of the military’s clearance process. ”And maybe even more challenging is that we need to try to do so in a way that doesn’t make the current backlog of clearance checks and rechecks unnecessarily worse — because frankly it’s a national security threat either way, and we’ve got to get this right.”

Pentagon guidelines show that authorised uses of lie-detector tests include two categories: allegations of wrongdoing, such as counter-terrorism investigations; or, officials involved in intelligence programs or with access to highly sensitive information.

Among the topics for lie-detector questions: involvement in spying or sabotage against the US government. There is no mention made of questions about sexual activity or extramarital affairs.

Haight had frequented swingers’ clubs around the country and had engaged in sex with multiple partners, his longtime girlfriend Jennifer Armstrong said. Senior government officials have raised concerns that his double life would have made him susceptible to blackmail or espionage.

In August, one former intelligence officer suggested that Haight would have had to pass lie-detector tests as part of the standard five-year review of his background to receive secret information. Haight, in his positions, the last of which oversaw operations in Europe including defense against Russian aggression, was not required to take a lie-detector test. Instead, he kept his secret hidden and was promoted three times since his affair began.

Extramarital affairs violate military law. Haight was reprimanded for the affair and is being forced to retire. A board of officers will determine the last rank that he served in honorably. Loss of rank in retirement could cost him tens of thousands of dollars per year.

A Pentagon panel will review information about Haight and determine if his security clearance should be reinstated. He has the right to appeal if the panel revokes it.