Former South Carolina lawmaker suspended from Pentagon job
MARION, S.C. (AP) — A former South Carolina state lawmaker and failed congressional candidate has been placed on leave from her Pentagon job during a probe into allegations of an unauthorized release of classified information, according to her attorney.
Since early 2019, Katie Arrington has been working as chief information officer for the Acquisition and Sustainment Office at the Defense Department, overseeing a cybersecurity initiative.
On May 11, she was informed that “her security clearance for access to classified information is being suspended” as “a result of a reported Unauthorized Disclosure of Classified Information and subsequent removal of access by the National Security Agency,” according to a memo first reported by Bloomberg News and confirmed Tuesday to The Associated Press by Mark Zaid, Arrington’s attorney.
“If this preliminary decision becomes final, you will not be eligible for access to classified information” or “assignments to duties that have been designated national security sensitive,” officials with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment wrote in the memo, according to Bloomberg.
On Tuesday, Zaid said the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency — which conducts background investigations for the federal workforce — “has no active investigation or adjudication actions” regarding Arrington. He accused security officials of “withholding information,” now that six weeks have passed since her suspension.
“The conduct of NSA is denying Ms. Arrington her due process and is harming the national security of the United States,” Zaid said.
Any specific allegations against Arrington have not been disclosed, and she remains on paid leave, according to Zaid.
Arrington went to work at the Pentagon after a brief political career in South Carolina. A Republican, she was elected to South Carolina’s state House in 2016. Two years later, she won a GOP primary over U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, who had returned to his congressional seat after serving two terms as governor.
It was Sanford’s first-ever loss, with Arrington calling her opponent a “Never Trumper” for his criticism of then-President Donald Trump.
During that campaign, Arrington referred to her cyber security and defense industry credentials as evidence of her federal government experience.
But Arrington narrowly lost the general election to newcomer Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who flipped the district from red to blue for the first time in decades. At the time, she blamed Sanford for her eventual loss and vowed to seek the seat in the future.
Arrington did not return a text message seeking comment Tuesday night, and her attorney said she would not be responding to inquiries on the matter.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.